Tibetan Sweet Tea
As saying goes You are what you eat, Tibetans have very unique food habit that is a part of traditional Tibetan food from many decades. Coming to Tibet for its attraction such as monasteries, temples and palaces , it is sure worth to try some of the local Tibetan food from which you could learn something about Tibetans. Because of the high elevation and dryness of the land, Tibet is not a land of vegetation, although barley is the major crop in Tibet.
Tibetan’s staple food Tsampa is a flour milled from roasted barley. Tsampa could take a while to learn how to eat it out of a bowl. The most basic way is to make a dough out of Tsampa by adding a bit of butter tea. Pour a little butter tea at the bottom of bowl, then put a dollop of tsampa on it before stir it with your forefinger and knead it with your hand. To enhance the taste of it, many children loves to add a bit of butter and sugar along with hot butter tea, while the butter melts and sugar dissolves in hot tea, or by adding some dry crushed cheese made of dri’s (female yak) milk, then put a dollop of tsampa, stir it gently with your forefinger until it becomes easy enough to knead it with your hand and make a dough which can be eat with butter tea for breakfast most of the time. However , Tsampa is the most convenient food for the pilgrims from countryside and nomads who would go on a day long with their herd. They would carry a Thang kuk (a small bag made of animal skin) with tsampa in it, it is easier to make tsampa in thang kuk rather than in a bowl, and most importantly it is easier to carry around since they are always on road outside their home.
Tsampa is great ingredient for making porridge with small pieces of Yak meat and butter in it, it is the most delicious porridge specially during cold winter in Tibet. Tibetan likes to eat stinging nettle porridge that is made with Tsampa, pieces of yak meat and butter. It is famously known as Milarepa’s prominent diet when on solitary meditation in caves and mountain retreats.
Butter tea and sweet teas are yet another important beverage in the life of Tibetans. Families will start their day with Butter tea at home and others with sweet tea at local tea shops. Butter tea is made with butter and strong concentration of tea which comes in a shape of bricks. It taste rather salt than sweet, like tsampa it could take some time to get use to it. Due to strong butterly taste of it, it is common that foreigner could feel little headache or stomach upset after few cups of it. In Lhasa, many family would use mixer machines to make butter nowadays which is more convenient than wooden butter churner. However in countryside or in villages, families would use wooden butter churner to make butter tea which is believed to be more delicious. Sweet tea is very common in almost every local Tibetan restaurant , it is served in different size of thermos flask rather in a glass or cup.
Tibetan Yak jerky is perhaps the most delicious of what Tibetan has to offer so far. Like Tsampa , it is convenient for the pilgrims and nomads , you will often see them chewing it along with a bowl of Tsampa and butter tea. Family members at villages and countryside would send a bag full of Yak jerky to their relatives in Lhasa besides dry yak cheese and butter , it is considered that homemade jerky is more delicious and healthier which don’t have any added preservatives, msg and flavours. Most of the Tibetan families will have a basin full of jerkies make of Yak and sheep on their table for the guest at their home, specially during Losar Tibetan new year. It is best to serve jerkies with hot chili sauces.
Momo is one of the most favourite Tibetan dishes, it is said that Tibetan momo is the origin of all sorts of dumplings across Indian sub continent and Himalayan regions. Momo is mostly serve at family gatherings or at parties at home. It takes fair amount of work to prepare momo and more easy to serve at gathering along with bone soup and hot chili sauce. Momo can be made in few different shapes however it is bit tricky and takes some time to know how to make it. It start with a dough made from white wheat, by making a small flat round shape dough with the help of round cup or seal of the flask, properly minced meat along with onions, some salts and bit of edible oil hence the juice of meat in momo.