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Food & Drink

Tibetan cuisine tastes very light, while aromatic, sweet and crisp food is a local favorite. Most food is boiled, deep-fried or steamed, because it is not easy to stir-fry food on the plateau. Generally speaking, a Tibetan meal consists of a staple food, meat, drinks and vegetables.

Tibetan food, Lhasa Tibetans have rice, wheat and barley as staple foods, and usually they eat food made of barley, such as Tsamba. The so-called tsamba is actually stir-fried barley. Different from the process of dealing with wheat among the Han people, barley is first stir-fried, and then milled into powder without being peeled. Tsamba is often accompanied with yak butter tea. Pour out half a bowl of yak butter tea, then add tsamba into the tea, stir it with your fingers, crush it up and it is ready to eat. During festivals, Tibetans throw tsamba into the air to pray for a good luck.

Tibetans like eating meat to fight the cold. The meat of yaks and sheep is the most favored. The meat of goats is disliked, while that of dogs, horses, and donkeys is taboo. In some areas, people do not eat fish for they regard fish as the incarnation of the god of water. Other people do not eat chicken or even eggs. Food Taboos differ from area to area. Tibetans are used to eating raw meat. In winter, they cut the meat into slices and hang them high up. The meat will keep fresh in the coldness and gradually dry. In the next spring they can either eat the air-dried meat as it is or cook it.

Yak butter tea is a daily drink in Tibet and a drink to greet guests as well. Almost every Tibetan family keeps a lot of yak butter in storage. When they make yak butter tea, they put yak butter into a bowl of tea, and after it is thawed, heat it up in the cooking pot. It is very convenient and rich in calories.

Chang is a kind of low-alcohol liquor that is brewed using fermented barley. It is enjoyed by all Tibetans, men and women, children and elders. It is also a necessity for festivals and religious ceremonies. These days, Tibetans dance freely and drink sweet chang to their content on the grasslands.

Sweet tea and yogurt are the other two common drinks. Sweet tea is what you get when you add milk and sugar to boiling tea. It is very popular to propose a toast of tea when seeing somebody off. Yogurt is more popular in pastoral areas.

Tibetans do not eat vegetables very often. In recent years, the situation has changed a lot, but vegetables are still much more expensive than those in inland China.

Tibetan restaurant in Barkor Street, Lhasa  If you are not used to Tibetan food, there is no need to worry since there are restaurants of other cuisines in Tibet, especially in Lhasa. You can choose dishes of Sichuan cuisine, Guangdong cuisine and, if you like, western food. In Lhasa, Shigatse, and Tsedang you can find restaurants that are specifically for tourists. They are dedicated to providing conveniences to tourists.

To get detailed information on food and drink in different regions, please visit 'dining'- a sub branch of our Tibet Guide .
Comments and Questions

It was ok... good though...but ok


10/4/2008 8:25:00 PM


Asked by diana