Tibetan cuisine is not well-known worldwide and there’s a lot yet to be discovered with the Tibetan dishes. Special occasions or religious holidays, Tibetan’s food can be served. Even when simply greeting friends, most Tibetans have something to offer when it comes to their staple food.
In this article, you will discover some of the traditional Tibetan cuisine that you can try once you visit the country located at the Qinghai-Tibet plateau with an average altitude of above 4000 meters. Here are some of the Tibetan dishes that use meat as their main ingredient.
Famous Tibetan Dishes With Meat
Tibetans don’t normally eat fish as they have their beliefs in Tibetan Buddhism where when infants died, their bodies would be expected to be disposed into the river. This is the reason why meat dishes would be popular in Tibetan cuisine. Let’s get to know some of them.
If you love some noodle soup, then this traditional Tibetan noodle soup is a must-try. This popular Tibetan food can be found mainly at Tibetan tea houses all over Lhasa. Tibetan recipes of this noodle soup may vary, but it is said that people of Eastern Tibet were the first to create this dish.
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The addicting distinctive flavors of shredded yak meat and seasonal vegetables will surely cure your cravings. The Tibetan noodle is mainly made with wheat flour and alkaline water. Only the yak bones in the highest regions of the country are used to create its broth in the noodle soup.
A flour made of highland barley, Tsampa, is essential to Tibetan culture. This is a staple food commonly served by Tibetan people during Tibetan festivals like Losar (the Tibetan New Year).
The highland barley flour is usually tossed high into the air. This is their special way of praying for peace and prosperity. Aside from that, Tsampa flour is also used by Tibetan people to exorcize evil spirits.
To eat Tsampa, you need to put the salty Tibetan butter tea inside the bowl and then add Tsampa flour into it. Knead the dough using your fingers and then you can eat the dough. This Tibetan food provides energy to the Tibetan people as it is calorie-rich and provides sufficient protein, fat and carbohydrates and other nutrients.
Dry Yak Meat
The harsh plateau in Tibet can be exhausting to its people, thus, beef and mutton are essential foods to the Tibetan people. They provide high-calorie foods that can be good during winter. During the cold season, having dry Yak meat is necessary.
This Tibetan food has been a staple dish during winter as it is easy to prepare. Associated with the highlands and Buddhist region of Tibet, the crispy and flavorful dried yak meat can be a good alternative during winter, even though being vegetarian is a tradition with the Tibetan buddhism, since very few vegetables can grow in the cold climate.
Most Tibetans would incorporate this with stewed curries or they can be eaten directly. Its high protein content of meat will surely benefit them during the winter season.
Tibetan Yak Meat
Aside from getting dried, the Tibetan Yak meat is used in different traditional Tibetan dishes. The yak meat is also popular for boiling, roast, stew, or cooking curry dishes. Yaks are like cows, though their red blood cell count is three times more than normal cows.
Tibetan yaks have been a source of meat, wool, milk, cheese, and wool for the Tibetans. Yak hair is used to make tents, hide for carpets and boots. Yak also produces milk that is similar to a cow’s milk. It is often used to make butter and other dairy products. There is even a Yak butter tea.
Yak meat is normally shredded and Tibetans would spread salt and other natural seasonings on it. Yak meat is slightly sweet in flavor and it is very juicy. You can also find some Yak meat soup in tea houses and restaurants.
Every country may have different cooking methods with curry. In Tibet, curries are a popular dish during lunch meals. Tibetan curries are made with yak neat, mutton, barley, yogurt, potatoes, and spices.
The surrounding countries, such as India, may have influenced their curries, but Tibetan people have created their own version of the curry. Their versions can be stewed, braised, fried, or toasted.
Though you may find many similarities between Tibetan, Nepalese and Indian curries, Tibetan curries are usually served with Cheser Mog rice.
Another Tibetan cuisine that is incorporated with Yak, Tibetan Momo is similar to the traditional Chinese dumplings that are made with wheat flour, but with few different shapes. These Tibetan dumplings could take the form of a crescent or like a round bread.
It also has a vegetarian version, which uses cabbages, onions and mushrooms as the filling instead of the Yak meat. This Tibetan cuisine is famous in restaurants where they are steamed and fried.
Tibetan momo can also be served with soup and Tibetan sweet tea. It is also served with spicy sauce or dressing and cucumber.
Other Popular Tibetan Cuisine
Surely, these traditional Tibetan dishes will provide rich flavor and will make you flutter. There are a lot of other options to consider should you visit the Tibetan plateau one day.
Though yogurt is not a meat dish, it is still served along with many Tibetan cuisines that consist of meat. As they say, your meal experience will not be complete without the traditional Tibetan yogurt.
Just like other yogurt lovers in the world, Tibetans would often incorporate their yogurts with grapes or different types of fruits to achieve different flavors. If you will tour Tibet, you will find out that yogurt is tied to the thousands of years of their history and culture.
The good thing with Tibetan yogurt is that it is fermented with Tibetan yak milk without harmful food additives. It is usually served during particular religious celebrations for Tibet Buddhism, such as the Shoton Festival that usually takes place in August.
It is a good idea to eat desserts after a hearty meal with meat. Dre-si is a Tibetan cuisine that is not commonly served in restaurants or tea houses, but is normally eaten on Tibetan New Year.
The ingredients would consist of Droma (a nutritious root), butter, broth, and sugar. Dre-si is a dish that symbolizes good luck and prosperity.
Tibetan Butter Tea
If you love some dessert that you can drink, check out the Tibetan butter tea. It is a drink made with boiled tea leaves, added with salt and ghee. Cow’s milk butter is often used heavily on this salty butter tea drink.
It goes well with Tsampa or if you are eating your Tibetan meal as it helps in digestion and improves brain function.. The traditional butter tea is created in the Himalayan region between Tibet and the Indian subcontinent.
Tibetan Sweet Tea
For those with a sweet tooth that doesn’t like drinking butter tea and would like to drink sweet tea, this tea drink is for you. If you visit Tibet, you will find sweet tea just like coffee as it is enjoyed across the country. Try ordering Tibetan noodles together with this sweet drink as they compliment each other.
Their sweet tea is made of powdered milk, black tea and brown sugar. Usually, black tea is used to create this sweet drink.
International tourists would often describe this beer as the beer from the roof of the world. Lhasa beer was exported to the United States in 2009. Its ingredients are Himalayan spring water, highland barley, saaz hops and yeast.
Lhasa beer has a superb quality, great aroma and taste and is sold in cans and bottles. If you go over the internet, you will find some tourists taking a selfie picture holding Lhasa beer at well-known scenic sites in Tibet, such as Everest Base Camp.
This barley wine is a traditional homemade alcohol in Tibet. Highland barley, millet and rice grains are used to make Chang. Since it is a traditional alcohol, it is commonly served and drink during Tibetan festivals. You’ll also find it during wedding ceremony and greeting friends.
Cookies are common treats even on other parts of the world. In Tibet cuisine, they have their own take of this popular sweet treat called Khapsey.
It is also a traditional food served during Losar (Tibetan New Year) and weddings. These crispy and delicious cookies also have different shapes and textures. You can even find some versions that have powdered sugar on top.