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Home >> Destination >> Tibet >> Food >>

Tibetan Food

In company with their unique culture, Tibetans have food of a very distinctive character.

Among the great variety of Tibetan food, zanba and buttered tea are the most popular and distinguished. The former, made of qingke (barley flour) and tasting a little bit sour, is very nutritious and easy to take, while the latter, a Juema, a Tibetan snack mixture of butter, tea and salt, claims to be a good energy-giving beverage. Quite a few tourists drink it during their stay in Tibet in order to adapt to the high altitudes and dry climate and it becomes quite addictive. Qingke wine, however, seems to have quite the opposite effect due to its strong after-effects. Many outsiders shrink from the challenge of drinking this wine despite in popularity with the locals. Other typical Tibetan foods include dried meat, mutton served with sheep's trotters, roast sheep intestine, yogurt and cheese.

All the hotels in Tibet serve Tibetan food and the Tibetan restaurants along Eastern Beijing Road in Lhasa enjoy quite a reputation among tourists. Snow Goddess Palace at the foot of the Potala attracts innumerable tourists with its authentic Tibetan cuisine. If you enjoy a feast there you will be offered the following: For the first course you will be served cold dishes such as zanba, yak meat, beef tripe and ox tongue. Next comes the hot dishes of sheep blood soup, fried sheep lung and stir-fried beef with pickled carrot. The staple is steamed buns stuffed with minced beef and potato, or rice fried with butter. What a treat not only for your stomach, but also for your eyes. Nevertheless, most people only taste a little of these beautiful dishes.

Tibetan food is not the only choice for tourists of today. Different styles of food, such as Sichuan and Guangdong cuisine, are also available at hotels and streetside restaurants in such cities as Lhasa, Zetang and Xigaze. Western restaurants and buffet cafeterias are also available for the slightly more unadventurous of tourists.

Staple Food

The staple Tibetan food is barley flour (rtsam-pa), which is consumed daily. Other major foods include wheat flour, yak meat, mutton, and pork. Dairy products such as butter, milk, and cheese are also popular. The people in the higher altitudes generally consume more meat than those of the lower regions, where a variety of vegetables is available. Rice is generally restricted in consumption to the well-to-do families, southern border farmers, and monks.

`Tubo', a savoury evening gruel made of lumps of wheat flour, tsamba, dried meat and a tuber called `yuangen'.

Non Alcoholic Beverages
The drink with which you will become most familiar by the end of your stay is jasmine tea. For contrast, try the famous and unique Tibetan tea. To make it, tea is boiled and pounded in a churn with yak butter and salt. It is kept hot in a thermos for instant use during the day. It helps to handle the un-usual taste of Tibetan tea by thinking of it as soup.

Soft drinks include a non-caffeinated Cola and Hi-Orange. Electrolytic Jian Li Bao soft drinks come in a variety of flavors including lemon and honey, and pear and honey.

Two beverages--tea and barley beer (chang)--are particularly noteworthy. Brick tea from China and local Tibetan tea leaves are boiled in soda water. The tea is then strained and poured into a churn, and salt and butter are added before the mixture is churned. The resulting tea is light reddish white and has a thick buttery surface. Chang, which is mildly intoxicating, is thick and white and has a sweet and pungent taste.

Due to the high altitude of Tibet, the water boils at 90 degree Celsius, and cooking with water is impossible. The diet and foods are peculiar in Tibet. The Tibetan diet consists mostly of meat, milks and other high-protein foods. The main staple is `tsamba'. Tea is a necessary. Travelers usually bring dried meat, tsamba, and tea for foods. There are three ways to make tea: simple tea, milk tea and butter tea. The most common tea leaves are produced in the Han Land, as Fu Tea from Hunan, Tou Tea from Yunnnan and Ta Tea from Szechuan. Tibetan tea-drinking forms a special `tea culture'.

Alcoholic Beverages

Most hotel bars serve alcoholic drinks using spirits distilled in China; in Lhasa, foreign liquors are available. Chinese wines are usually sweet but are quite tasty. Lhasa Beer is the most popular light beer.

Tibetan rice wine, chhang, is made from fermented barley and occasionally rice or millet. It tastes mild but is seldom made with pure water and can sneak up on you after a few glasses, having a strong effect at Tibet's high altitudes. In some hotel Bars in they serves a delicious, mild chhang drink laced with honey.

Recommended Tibetan Dishes
Tibetan cooking has been influenced by its neighbor India, but makes use of ingredients indigenous to the mountains. Tibetan cuisine is similar to that of Nepal. Travel to the Himalayas and interest in Buddhism has stimulated curiosity about Tibetan culture.

There are many restaurants in Lhasa, Shigatse, and Zetang, All restaurants of various classes are decorated and furnished in the traditional Tibetan style. Diners can enjoy delicious Tibetan Tibetan dishes while admiring paintings and murals symbolizing happiness and good luck in the restaurants. High on the menu are such flavors as sausages, barley wine, butter oil tea, beef and mutton eaten with the hands, yak tongue, steamed buns, zanba made from highland barley, pastries, sweet tea, butter tea, dried beef, and xiapuqing, or minced mutton and beef.

There are also a number of Tibetan restaurants in the United States, especially in large cities and in college towns. Novices should be warned that Tibetan cheese is usually hard enough to break teeth, and should be moistened in the mouth before chewing.

Popular and Recommended Tibetan Dishes:
tsampa (roated barley flour); momo (steamed or fried dumplings); stir-fried meats; thukpa (noodle soup with meat and sometimes vegetables); carrot cake; banana porridge; lamb with radish; caramel tea; soja (butter tea); barley ale.

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