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Tibet – Cooking and Food Edit

Overview of Tibetan Cuisine HistoryEdit

The Tibetans have lived from ages in a place called the “Roof of the World”, on the Tibet Plateau. This location is high above the sea level and the temperatures are low. In the past, eating in Tibet was seen strictly as a necessity for staying alive. Nowadays, the development is allowing the Tibetans to pay attention to their alimentation. There are many markets in Tibet from which the housewives can buy fresh vegetables, fresh fish, Pork, Beef or mutton. In the past, a Tibetan meal was containing almost 90% meat and no vegetables. As Tibet itself changed a lot, the people living there changed their lifestyle completely. Nowadays the Tibetan diet contains much more vegetables. In Lhasa there are more than ten vegetable markets. Tibetan farmers are growing vegetables in greenhouses and this way they will have fresh fruits and vegetables even in the wintertime. Buffets are very popular in Tibet even for weddings. Usually when guests are invited for lunch, the Tibetans are preparing a buffet containing a variety of courses. In the past, eating fish was considered something very weird in Tibet because of the old traditions. Nowadays the fish dishes are very popular in Tibet. The Hungba Village is now an important fishing center. The Chicken meat wasn’t that popular in Tibet because the Tibetans were considering that is a pity to kill a small bird for its meat. Nowadays Tibetan farmers are raising muttons, pigs, chickens and cows. There are also a few Tibetans farmers who are raising Beijing ducks. In the past, Tibetans were eating raw meat, but in the present times, this unusual habit was totally replaced by the hygienic and healthy diet therapies. The Tibetan cuisine is using roasted “qingke” barley flour, meat, milk, fruits and vegetables. The cabbages are used most in dishes which are containing vegetables. A wine made of “qingke” Barley and corn is very appreciated by Tibetans. The yoghourt made of yak milk is a typicall specialty of the Tibetan cuisine. From the same milk, Tibetans are producing an excellent cheese.

Cuisines of Tibet Edit

Map of Tibet

Map of Tibet - Click to enlarge

The Tibetan cuisine can be classified into four traditional cuisines: the “Ngari's Qiang” cuisine, the “Lhasa's Lhasa” cuisine, the “Nyingchi's Rong” cuisine and the “Court Cuisine”. The last cuisine mentioned, the “Court Cuisine”, contains typically Tibetan aristocrats dishes. The Tibetan cuisine contains more than 200 recipes. The “Ngari's Qiang” cuisine belongs to the Tibetans living in the high altitude areas, the pastoral ones. There are some produces typically for the “Ngari's Qiang”: acidulous milk, butter, cheese and stock made of boiled cattle hoofs. The stock made of boiled hoofs is similar to the jelly made of calf’s food cooked in the Western Tibet. The “Lhasa's Lhasa” cuisine is using a variety of ingredients and is also cooked in different ways. A typically Tibetan dish is the “Carbonade” which is made of radish, the “Boiled Mutton”, or the “Beef Catsup”. In the southeast of Tibet there is the “Rong” Cuisine. The southeastern part of Tibet is situated at a lower altitude than the rest of the country. The wild fungi and some mushrooms are used for flavoring the dishes. The “Court Cuisine” is representing the sum of all Tibetan food traditions and cooking methods. The Tibetan cuisine can be also divided into two secondary cuisines: the pastoral one and the one from the farming areas. The Tibetan pastoral cuisine is based on meat and milk. The meat is can be eaten dried during the winter and during summer yogurt and cheese are preferred. The Tibetan cuisine developed in the farming areas is rich in Pork meat, potatoes, “Qingke” wine and “Tsampa”, which is roasted “Qingke” flour.

Preparation Methods for Tibetan Cooking Edit

The Tibetan cooking methods aren’t different from the other cuisine’s cooking methods. In cooking some dishes it is necessary to grill the vegetables, to cook with herbs, to prepare rice noodles, depending on the cooking style that a certain recipe requires. For example, the main ingredients for the rice noodles are water, uncooked long grain rice and vegetable oil. The rice needs to be soaked overnight in water. Next, the rice and the water need to be grinded in a blender for about ten minutes to obtain a smooth batter. The baking ban needs to be coated with oil and preheated for about five minutes. The batter needs to be steamed for about four minutes and the boiling water added. The slices will separate into noodles. The last step is to wrap the fresh noodles in a plastic bag and to refrigerate them for at least two days. The “Shamday” or the Tibetan curry is made of onions, garlic, ginger, salt, tomatoes, potatoes, Lamb or Beef, seaweed, sesame oil and bean thread noodles. The preparation method goes like this: the bean thread noodles and the seaweed need to be soaked in cold water for about ten minutes. The potatoes need to be peeled and cut into small cubes and the meat needs also to be cut into tinny cubes, the ingredients mixed together and boiled.

Special Equipment for Tibetan Cooking Edit

The Tibetan cuisine doesn’t require certain special equipment for cooking. The basic equipment of a kitchen: soup ladles, food pans, or mugs, ovens, grills, saucepans, woks and the right ingredients are sufficient for preparing a Tibetan dish. For example, in preparing “Luksha Shamdeh”, the Tibetan Lamb curry, the main ingredients are: one cup of plain yoghurt, a teaspoon of paprika, a tablespoon of curry powder, a tablespoon of soy sauce, ginger, garlic, cubed boneless of Lamb, three large onions, oil, few cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, three bay leaves, four tomatoes and three large potatoes. The equipment needed for cooking this traditional dish is the basic one consisting in a large bowl, a sharp knife, a large saucepan, a kitchen spoon, a gas range and an oven. The yogurt is mixed with the paprika, the curry powder, the soy sauce, the garlic and the ginger into a large bowl, in which later the Lamb will be added. All these ingredients will be left overnight marinate. The onions need to sauté in oil for about ten minutes, than the cinnamon, star anise and the bay leaves will be also added. All the ingredients will be cooked for about a half an hour at medium heat.

Tibetan Food Traditions and Festivals Edit

The Tibetan Food Festivals are celebrating the unique cuisine, the religion, the art or the folklore, in a word, the Tibetan culture. Great moments of joy in Tibet are brought by the yearly food festivals. “Lhosar” represents the Tibetan New Year and is the most important festival of the year. Traditional Tibetan food such as the corn or millet pudding or “Roti”, which is a crispy bread eaten with chili are offered to the participants of this great festival. During this national food and culture festival people are drinking “Jaar”, rice bear, “Tchang” or rice wine, celebrating the beauty of the Tibetan culture. Tibet is also invited every year to take part to international food festivals, presenting daintiness such as the “Momos”, which are pastry shells with flavored Beef or vegetables, or the Tibetan Hot Spicy Potatoes to the foreign audience. The Tibetan food is appreciated all over the world and the tourists who are visiting this magnificent country never leave without asking for some traditional recipes or without buying a bag of Asian seasonings.

People in Tibetan Food Edit

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The Tibetan chefs are devoted to their culinary traditions, customs and culture. The Tibetan Chefs are writing precious cookbooks in which they are presenting traditional recipes and unique cooking methods. There are Tibetan chefs who are invited to participate to local or international food festivals or even to food competitions. Some of the most appreciated Tibetan chefs are members of gastronomic associations, preserving the cultural inheritance and the culinary traditions. There are Tibetan chefs who are cooking in a Chinese style and others whose dishes have Indian elements, depending on the Tibetan region where they developed their skills. Many talented Tibetan chefs own restaurants in Tibet or abroad, being the messengers of the Tibetan culture. In Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, there is a contest, a food competition that lasts for two days, between Tibetan chefs. During this contest, the Tibetan chefs will prepare traditional old Tibetan dishes, but the participants are encouraged to use both old traditional cooking techniques and new, innovating ones. The cooks will have to prepare three dishes in limited time. The people are invited to watch the contest and to taste the daintiness prepared by the skilled chefs.

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