Food, that’s a subject that we all tend to love! While it brings out cultural highlights in each plate, it also appeals to many senses and attracts many. Whether you love Indian, Japanese or Mexican food, there is usually a story behind it, a reason why that type of food appeals to you. It could be the spices, the memories it brings. Tibetan food did appeal to me because of the unknown, because of the images it brought to me but also because of its ingredients. I will take you on a guide to Tibetan food, so you can discover or re-discover that lovely cuisine!
I’ve always wanted to see Tibet but due to the current situation and our lack of money the closest I could get was Shangri-La. I had been told that the culture and the food was very similar to Nepalese food and kept on thinking that I would probably not enjoy said food. But when I put my hands on my first Yak sizzler… I knew it was different and I had to taste as much as possible !
So I did, went from restaurant to restaurant, tried different things, had gorgeous food and disgusting food but at the end of the day I’ve got to admit that Tibetan food easily made it to my Top 3. So what do you need to know about Tibetan food :
It’s simple : almost everything is made out of Yak. You’ll find goat of course but yak… That’s your main source of meat. It’s easy to understand : in a high plateau like Tibet you don’t find much vegetation or livestock that can endure the harsh weather conditions and high altitude. Yaks and goats are the exception.
Yak butter milk tea, Yak yoghurt, Yak cheese, Yak stew, everything is used in the Yak and not only for cooking ! You’ll get clothes made out of Yak hair too. While the Yak yoghurt is a real delicacy, be careful with the cheese and the butter milk tea ! The cheese is sweet and the butter milk tea contains the word « butter » for a good reason ! Thick, it will keep you warm but it’s really heavy to drink !
Another important ingredient in Tibetan food is barely. Used for the famous Tsampa, it can also be find in different dishes (like the Yak Barely that I can only recommend.)
Easy to grow in cold weather, this,with potatoes, is one of the few vegetables you will find in most of the local meals.
Some local specialties :
Thick, made with barely, Yak cheese and other ingredients, it’s history is close to the one of the porridge. Made to stay warm enough and in a good shape for the worker’s breakfast, it’s a very thick and complete type of meal.
While I didn’t enjoy it, it is a very good weapon against a very cold weather. Dense, it can be enjoyed with some wild honey to give it a bit more taste. Depending on the cook, the texture might be more crispy.
- Yak Yoghurt
A real delicacy for the Tibetans. A well made Yak yoghurt is regarded as high cuisine and you do get why : creamy, with a lovely taste, this yoghurt doesn’t remind you of a big smelly yak in any way. If you enjoy your local yoghurts I do suggest that you try to put your hand on one of those !
- Yak Hotpot
Hard to decide if the hotpot is really a Tibetan specialty of a mix of culture between China and Tibet. In any case it is a must try if you are in Shangri-La ! A medium hotpot is enough for 6, so think about it and ask advice to the restaurant before ordering ! It’s a friendly meal that can be shared by many.
If someone would have told me the Tibetan could do bread I probably would have just laughed at them, I mean bread, really ?
And then I tried Baba. A brown bread pretty similar to the one used in France for Kebabs, Baba is a gorgeous bread that needs a good baker to take all the right flavours. It’s perfect to go with your meal and is, again, very filling.
- Local drink : Yak butter milk tea
While this drink can be found in Nepal, it is also a Tibetan drink. It warms you up for a while and really tastes like pouring hot butter down your throat but is perfect for a mountain trek in the winter time.
What about you ? Have you tried Tibetan food ? Are you interested to give it a go ? Would you like to add any information to this article ?
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