We were recently in Tibet, land of the austere, yak butter and momos.
First time on a holiday trip, L insisted that we pack instant noodles. Usually I’m the fussy eater. I need comfort food and the umami taste. L who studied in Europe, gets by with just biscuits. Me – Even when studying in France I brought my electric rice cooker and Thai Jasmine rice. I stayed across campus which had subsidised prices of international cuisine ranging from an amazing spread of salad, western, Indian, Moroccan cuisine, not forgetting 5 types of yogurt everyday. But I need my Chinese-home-made ABC soup.
So here is L being finicky for the first time. Let me put this in context. Comments from our chef friend J, on how he had sous-vide yak meat for 78hours and yet it was still tough as a shoe-sole convinced him that we may return gaunt and needing re-tailoring of pants one size smaller.
Things were more positive than expected.
After the first night, where we were conned by the driver who brought us to a touristy Mao-inspired steamboat restaurant where a meal for 5 amounted to US$200, J decided to use a Chinese app to hunt for Tibetan restaurants and consult our humble, self-effacing Tibetan guide.
Laping, Tibetan cold jelly noodle dish, made from mung bean starch. A cool and refreshing spicy summer dish originating from Sichuan. Recipe found here. This is street food recommended by our Tibetan guide.
Long queues of local Tibetans outside the shop, packing off dinner, convinced us to try.
According to our Tibetan guide, the local Tibetans traditionally carry Tsampa during their long hikes as it doesnt spoil and can cure hunger pangs over long journeys. Made with roasted barley, Tsampa is eaten today as a breakfast food with home-made butter yak tea.
Quality of Nepalese food is quite good, although the menu appeared like Indian naan, tandoori chicken, masala chai and lassi. The staff speak English. Reasonably priced. One naan with curried meat (with daal) in a cozy ambience cost $3 per pax. The frontage of the restaurant is on a narrow street. Our friend JL discovered the restaurant through a Chinese food advisory website.
Chinese Szechuan cuisine is very popular here too. Probably because of the physical proximity. Most people take a flight/ train to Lhasa from Chengdu. I’ve finally tried the famous egg/ fried with tomato which seems to be every Chinese who studied in America’s favourite comfort food. Including our friend SN.
Prior to our trip, well-meaning friends advised us to try the famous Tibetan momo. Our guide didn’t seem to know what it is. It looks like the typical Chinese dumpling like Xiaolongbao. Probably from Nepalese cuisine.
Tibetans drink yak butter tea everyday. They make it at home. Its drunk warm- served in a flask, salty, and oily from the butter (probably churned by milk). Our gracious guide hosted us to his home in the country side. We tried the Tibetan delicacy cheese curd, which is crispy and like a snack. I might develop a taste for it if I lived here.