Top Tibetan Food You Can’t Afford To Miss

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A Food Fun Travel Guest Post

Traveling to different places is more than just visiting attractions for many tourists. One of the easiest ways to understand the people and culture is to eat their foods, and it is no different in Tibet. Tibetan cuisine is unique and often unusual and is one of the best ways to better understand how the Tibetan people live on their high-altitude plateau. Taking a tour of Tibet means that you will be traveling in the different areas of the region, and gives you the chance to sample some of the tasty and delicious foods and drinks that the Tibetan people eat daily for Tibet travel.

Tibetan Noodles

One of the heartiest meals of the Tibetan plateau, Thukpa, or noodle soups, are designed to fill your belly and warm your insides at the same time. All noodle soups in Tibet are known as “Thukpa”, where “thuk” is Tibetan for noodles.

Most dishes that contain noodles are a form of Thukpa, and are made with vegetables or meat, or even both. Thenthuk is one of the most common variations of noodle soup in Tibet, which originates in Amdo in eastern Tibet, but which is now eaten all across the plateau. Instead of using the long string egg noodles, thenthuk, as with gyathuk, uses a noodle dough where the noodles are pulled off the long thick strand in small pieces and added to the broth to cook. One of the most delicious noodle soups in the world, the Tibetan Thukpa is a main staple of their diet and can keep you going for days.

Tsampa with Butter Tea

Made from roasted barley flour, tsampa is one of the staples of the Tibetan diet and is eaten by almost everyone, and at almost every meal. It is even the preferred snack to take with you on long journeys, as it is high in energy and nutrients. Tsampa is also easy to make and can be made simply using just flour and some Tibetan butter tea. Tsampa also has a religious significance in Tibet, and is often used as one of the main foods for sacrifice and offerings to the gods. The rituals, which can be found at many ceremonies including New Year and funerals, consist of throwing the tsampa into the air as an offering to bring good luck and to help release the soul from the mortal body.

Tsampa is made from barley flour mixed with a little of the tea left in your bowl and is kneaded together with your first two fingers, rolling it around the bowl until it forms a dry dough, and then shaping it into a ball. While this may sound simple, it actually takes some practice to get it right, and Tibetans can make dozens of tsampa very quickly, that are all the same size and shape. Once the tsampa is made, it is eaten and washed down with some more tea.

Tibetan Momo

Everyone loves dumplings, and in Tibet they have their own version of those famous treats, which can be found all across the Tibetan plateau. Known as “momos”, these small filled packets of dough are steamed and are one of the most delicious treats you can find in Tibet. The name, momo, actually has little to do with the original “momo” from Shanxi Province, where it means “steamed bun”. In Tibet, momo is a local colloquial term for “mog mog”, the actual Tibetan name of these small dumplings. This variation of filled steamed dumplings is believed to have originated in Tibet and spread to neighboring countries, and was traditionally filled with yak meat, due to the scarcity of vegetables in Tibet. Modern versions are also filled with different meats and vegetables, and vegetarian options can also be found.

Tibetan yak meat

Yaks have long been the domesticated cattle of the Tibetan plateau, long before normal cows and buffalo were imported from lower lying areas. Native to the Himalayas, these huge hairy beasts have been the main source of meat and dairy products in Tibet, and a major food source for the Tibetan people. For thousands of years, yak meat has made up a major part of the Tibetan diet, and it is traditionally eaten boiled or dried. However, in some parts of the plateau, it is even eaten raw, especially in the winter months. Most Tibetan dishes will include yak meat or mutton where yak is not readily available, and there are still thousands of nomadic herders across the plateau that make their living from their yak herds.

Tibetan Yogurt

One of the most popular snacks in Tibet, yogurt is so prevalent in the region that it actually has its own festival. Known as the Shoton Festival, but also called the Yogurt Festival, it celebrates the end of the monastic fasting period, where traditionally, milk curds were given to the monks after their fast to help them regain strength and as an offering of thanks for their sacrifice. As a snack, yogurt is eaten almost daily across the plateau and is one of the most popular dairy products of Tibet. Tibetan yogurt is a little different from western yogurt, as it is made from yak milk, which has a higher fat content than cow’s milk, making the yogurt much creamier and more delicious. The flavor of the yogurt is very strong, and many people add a little sugar, and recently, even raisins, to give it a different taste. One of the most delightful foods of the plateau, you can find it in every restaurant, hotel, and street vendor across the region.

Whatever your tastes, you are likely to find foods on the Tibetan plateau unusual to your palate. However, the unique taste of the foods and their distinctive flavors and aromas are enough to make your mouth water and leave your stomach grumbling to be fed. Trying out the delicious foods of the Tibetan plateau is a great way to learn more about the Tibetan culture, as well as being an ideal way to get to know Tibetan people since food is an important part of social interaction.