Food and Drink in Tibet
Traditional Tibetan food consists mainly of barley, meat and dairy products.
Vegetables are scarce in the high altitude. Tsampa is the staple food of Tibetan
people, which is consumed daily. Tsampa is actually barley flour made from parched
barley, un-husked and ground into fine flour. Mix the flour with salted butter
tea in a bowl, rotate the bowl with the left hand and mix the food with the
fingers of your right hand, rolling it into small lumps, and squeezing it into
your mouth with your fingers.
Other ingredients may also be added to add flavor. Tibetan people eat Tsampa
at every meal, and when traveling, it is brought along as a ready made meal.
The salted butter tea is an indispensable Tsampa companion. Boiled tea is poured
into a long cylindrical churn along with salt and yak butter, and vigorous churning
makes the ingredients well blended and ready to serve. Tibetan people drink
it throughout the day. Yak butter is a very important food for Tibetans. It
is separated from yak milk by hard churning, and after the butter is separated
from the milk, the residue becomes sour and can be made into milk curd, which
is a nice thirst quencher and can be made into a delightful milk curd pastry
with bailey flour.
Yoghurt is an important dietary meal for Tibetan people. The creamy milk produced
by yak cows is superb. Tibetan nomads in the eastern Tibet manufacture their
yoghurt in a special process. The milk is boiled first, and after removed from
the stove, some old yogurt is added in. and yogurt will form in a few hours.
Yogurt has been a Tibetan food for more than 1.000 years.
Dried beef and mutton stripe is also popular food in Tibet. In the winter, beef
and mutton are cut into long stripes and hung in shaded areas to be air-dried.
The dried meat is crisp and tastes good, and can be eaten raw, since the cold
temperature in the winter has killed bacteria during the process.
Big sides of beef and mutton boiled with salt, ginger and spices are also popular
food among Tibetans. They take the meat and cut them with their knives. The
guests will be treated with breasts and spareribs. If you are treated with a
tail of white sheep, it means that you are deemed as their guest of honor.
Blood, meat, flour and liver sausages are also favored by many Tibetans. Other
food stuffs include Momo (Tibetan dumplings), Thenthuk. (Tibetan noodles), and
At present time, in many Tibetan towns, in Lhasa for example, Tibetan food is
supplemented by Chinese food, mostly Sichuan food. Vegetables and fish become
available in market. However, Tibetan people seldom eat fish due to their religion
and custom. Restaurants serve Tibetan, Chinese, and even western food, mushroom
in the streets to accommodate tourists. In Lhasa Hotel (formerly Holiday Inn),
the restaurant provides Chinese, Indian, Nepalese and western food. Kailash,
Tashi, Snow Lands, Dunya (former Crazy Yak), and Makye Ame are popular among
Travelers in Lhasa. The choice for vegetables will be limited due to the short
Tibetans like drinking tea. Besides salted butter tea, sweet milk tea is another
popular beverage. Hot boiling black tea filtered is decanted into a churn, and
then fresh milk and sugar are added. Vigorous churning turns out a light reddish
white drink. There are many tea shops in Lhasa serving the sweet milk tea. Tibetan
barley beer, called Chang is popular among all Tibetans. The beer is mild, slightly
sweet and sour and contains little alcohol. The beverage is worth trying. Soft
drinks and beer are also available in Lhasa.
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