Eating in Kham area Sichuan
You cannot say you have really tasted Tibetan food without trying highland barley wine, buttered tea, sheep blood soup and yak meat.
Among the great variety of Tibetan food, zanba or tsampa (roasted barley flour) and bo cha (yak-butter tea) are the most popular. Other typical Tibetan foods include dried meat, mutton served with sheep's trotters, roast sheep intestine, yogurt and cheese.
Main Types of Tibetan Food
In the winter, beef and mutton are cut into long stripes to be air-dried in the circular ground caves or bins walled with stones or dungs. Dried beef and mutton keep better and longer, as the bacteria in them are killed during the drying process in deep winter. Dried meat also packs well. In the next year, the dried meat will be barbecued or be eaten raw.
Big chucks of fresh meat are boiled in a pot. Salt, ginger, spices are added. The meat is served when it changes colour. People take the meat by hands and cut them with the carried knives.
There are four different sausages in Tibet: blood, meat, flour and liver.
The basic Tibetan meal is tsampa, a kind of dough made with roasted barley flour and yak butter with water and beer. It has a certain novelty value the first time you try it, but only a Tibetan can eat it every day and still look forward to the next meal. Highland Barley, also called Barley, is the principal material used to make tsampa. Tibetan barley is widely grown in Tibet and on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau due its endurance to the local harshness and coldness.
Yak Butter, refined from the milk of cattle and goat, is the daily food of Tibetans. It is intriguing for Tibetans to refine yak butter. As milk segregators are not widely used in the pasturing area in Tibet, Tibetan people usually refine milk in old way. Tibetan women pour the heated milk into a big wooden bucket called 'Xue Dong', then whip forcibly up and down for hundreds of times to segregate grease from water. Step by step, a tier of something light yellow will surface, subsequently ladle the floating and put it into a leather bag to cool it. In this way, the refinement of yak butter ends. Yak butter has very high value of nutrition. Tibetans usually eat little fruits and vegetables, the daily required heat energy is supplied by yak butter besides meats, especially in pasture area.
The Tibetan butter is home-made and can be further processed and refined into butter known elsewhere. Butter is used for food with `tsamba', tea etc., or for the fuel of lamp.
After butter is made from milk, the remaining becomes sour and can be made curd. Milk curd placed in the mouth and sucked on helps to quench thirst and can be mixed with barley flour to make curd-pastry, a holiday delight.
The milk is boiled first, after removed from stove, some old yogurt is added. Yogurt will form in a few hours. In the central and western parts, the yogurt is thin and smooth. In the east, it is too thick to stir. Yogurt is mentioned in the famous poem 'the story of Gesar', and has been a Tibetan food for more than 1,000 years.
The staple Tibetan food is barley flour (tsam-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.
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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