Tibetan cuisineThukpa, A Tibetan noodle dishTibetan cui...

Tibetan cuisine


Thukpa, A Tibetan noodle dish

Tibetan cuisine, is quite distinct from that of its neighbours, since only a few crops (not including rice) grow at such high altitude. The most important crop is barley. Dough made from barley flour, called tsampa, is the staple food of Tibet.This is either rolled into noodles or made into steamed dumplings called momos. Meat dishes are likely to be yak, goat, or mutton, often dried, or cooked into a spicy stew with potatoes. Mustard seed is cultivated in Tibet, and therefore features heavily in its cuisine. Yak yoghurt, butter and cheese are frequently eaten, and well-prepared yoghurt is considered something of a prestige item.

Other Tibetan foods include:

Balep korkun - a central Tibetan flatbread that is made on a skillet rather than in an oven.

Momos - a type of steamed ravioli, a heavier version of the Chinese jiaozi

Thenthuk - a type of cold-weather soup made with noodles and various vegetables.

In larger Tibetan towns and cities many restaurants now serve Sichuan-style Chinese food. Western imports and fusion dishes, such as fried yak and chips, are also popular. Nevertheless, many small restaurants serving traditional Tibetan dishes persist in both cities and the countryside.


Most Tibetans drink many cups of yak butter tea each day. Jasmine tea is also sometimes available.


Brick tea is made by methods only distantly related to those employed in China or Ceylon. When the water boils, a great handful of the stuff is crumbled into it and allowed to stew for between five and ten minutes, until the whole infusion is so opaque that it looks almost black. At this stage a pinch of salt is added; the Tibetans always put salt, never sugar, in their tea. I have been told that they sometimes add a little soda, in order to give the beverage a pinkish tinge, but I never saw this done in Sikang. They very seldom, on the other hand, drink tea without butter in it. If you are at home, you empty the saucepan into a big wooden churn, straining the tea through a colander made of reed or horsehair. Then you drop a large lump of butter into it, and, after being vigorously stirred,this brew is transferred to a huge copper teapot and put on a brazier to keep it hot. When you are traveling, you do not normally take a churn with you, so everyone fills his wooden bowl with tea, scoops a piece of butter out of a basket, puts it in the bowl, stirs the mixture gently with his finger, and, finally, drinks the tea."

Alcoholic beverages include:

Chang, a beer usually made from barley

Pinjopo, a rice wine