Tips for Tibetan Food and Restaurants

What to Eat in Tibet

For Tibetans, their staple food is diverse, and is respectively are rice, wheat and barley. In general, the food made by barley is regarded as the staple food, namely, Tsampa. Tsampa or Tsamba (糌粑) is a Tibetan and Himalayan Nepalese staple foodstuff, particularly prominent in the central part of the region. It is roasted flour, usually barley flour and sometimes also wheat flour. It is usually mixed with the salty Tibetan butter tea. During festivals, Tibetans throw tsamba into the air to pray for a good luck. 

In order to keep warm, Tibetans like eating meat. Of course, the yak meat is their favorite. However, the meat of dogs, horses and donkeys is taboo. In some areas, it is forbidden to eat fish since they think fish is the god of water. In the eastern part of Tibet, people hardly eat fish, and can’t touch animals such as snakes and frogs. They think that aquatic animals are dragon’s pets, and if they hurt and touch these animals, they will get sick. It is generally believed that Tibetans do not eat fish because of the influence of concept of not killing in Buddhism. While Tibetans in the eastern part of Tibet does not eat fish and  it has a long history. The site in Qamdo site is close to the Lancang River. It is rich in fish, but no fishing hooks,  and other fishing tools have been found in the site. Therefore, archaeological experts speculate that the ancient ancestors of Tibetans in Tibet had the habit of using fish as a “taboo food”. The concept and customs of not eating fish were further strengthened after the introduction of Buddhism, so that the Tibetans in the eastern Tibet do not eat fish.

Note: If you are a vegetarian, you may spend more money than others because the prices of vegetables and fruits may be higher in this place. And you may still have little choice in short seasons.

What to Drink

Butter tea, also known as po cha (酥油茶), is a drink of the people in the Himalayan regions of Nepal, Bhutan, India (particularly in Ladakh, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh) and Tibet. Traditionally, it is made from tea leaves, yak butter, water, and salt, although butter made from yak’s milk is increasingly used, given its wider availability and lower cost. The 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. 

Highland barley wine is one of the three symbolic goods of Tibetan culture. It is a unique kind of wine brewed by the highland barley and the unpolluted snow water or spring water. It is the favorite wine of the Tibetan people, a must in big festivals, celebrations and daily lives.

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.

Where to Eat

With the development of the Tourism in Tibet, the restaurants serve more and more cuisines to meet needs of visitors. Lhasa for example, Tibetan food is supplemented by Chinese food, mostly Sichuan food. Restaurants serving Tibetan food, Chinese food and even western food mushroom in the streets to accommodate tourists. There are some restaurants as follows:
  • Lhasa Kitchen(拉萨厨房), located the opposite of Jokhang Temple
  • House of Shambhala Restaurant, located in LhasaTibet
  • Tibetan Family Kitchen, located in Lhasa
  • Dunya Restaurant, located in Lhasa
  • Mayke Ame Restaurant, located in Lhasa
  • Snowland Restaurant, located in Lhasa

There are many restaurants in Tibet, the above are only for your reference. If you have any problems, please contact us.

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