Traditional Food and Drink in Tibet


While admiring the fascinating scenery of Tibet, seize the chance to have a taste of traditional Tibetan food. It is one of the most important features in Tibetan cultures.

The special geographic features of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau nurture the traditional Tibetan food. However, it is also largely influenced by the flavors of Indian cuisine, Nepal cuisine, and other cuisines in China. These flavors mix together, making Tibetan food exquisite.

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.

Staple Foods in Tibet

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.

The Tibetan TsambaDifferent 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.

Eating Meats in Tibet!

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 such as Namtso Lake, 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.

There are not too many vegetables in traditional Tibetan food. In recent years, the situation has changed a lot, but vegetables are still much more expensive than those in mainland China.

The Tibetan Drinks

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.

Tibetan Yaks TeaSweet tea and yogurt are the other two common Tibetan 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.

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.

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