As a practicing Buddhist, Christine Liu wanted to share the benefits of a vegetarian diet in hopes others would catch on. Serving lunch and dinner, her organic vegetarian restaurant, Yam Leaf Bistro in Mountain View, has a Latin flair, serving pupusas, yucca, and other traditional dishes made with soy chorizo and tempeh standing in for meat. However, with time Liu said she would like the menu to expand to include more global influences. Yam Leaf Bistro also serves organic wines and hard-to-find gluten-free beers. What is the story behind Yam Leaf Bistro?

Liu: It was a group of six of us; all practicing Buddhists, and we really wanted to promote a vegetarian diet to the public. We feel killing animals is not really good for humans and it’s not good for the earth. [Being a vegetarian is] the easiest way to alter the world. The intention is we’re not here to make money.

The menu is obviously vegetarian but is there a particular cuisine you build from?

The original restaurant was Salvadoran and a fair amount of the recipes are left over from the previous owner such as pupusas and yucca plates. We’re going to have some new global menu items, maybe curried rice, maybe something Greek. We are trying to get vegetarian dishes from all over the world; there are no real boundaries.

Have you been a vegetarian for a long time?

I was converted about 9 years ago. I was a meat eater: I loved bacon and all the other goodies. For me it was just an overnight thing—everyone is different. For me I changed dramatically and I feel I can think more clearly, I feel really good and I feel I benefit from being a vegetarian.

Are a majority of your customers Buddhists as well, or those who follow a strict vegetarian diet?

Our target customer is actually a meat eater. I want people to come and be like, “Oh being a vegetarian is not too bad.” I had a non-vegetarian customer the other day tell me, “It’s beyond not too bad, it’s delicious!” and that was great encouragement. I would like to have more meat eaters come and try something different.