Tibetan Foodways

The staple food among nomads on the Tibetan Plateau, and a key indicator of Tibetan culture, is tsampa, which is made from highland barley, butter, and water. For nomads, highland barley is often acquired from farmers through barter or exchange, most often in a roasted flour form that is ready to use. To prepare tsampa, mix the ingredients in a bowl until it has the consistency of cookie dough and is then ready to eat. In addition to tsampa, Tibetan nomads also consume delicacies that are prepared during festivities, on sacred calendar dates, and to welcome important guests. On such occasions, families might prepare momos (or dumplings), rice topped with butter, sugar and wild yams, dried bread, rice-noodle stew, and copious amounts of meat. One of the most common methods for cooking the latter is to simply boil a potful of meat in lightly salted water with seasonings made from pepper, garlic, onions, and turnips.

Questions for Discussion

  • What can you observe about the Tibetan home shown at the beginning of the video?
  • Describe some of the foods that are important to Tibetan nomads.
  • What kinds of foods can you spot in the holiday feast shown at the end of the video? Is this similar to a meal you would have with your family on a special occasion?