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Food & Cuisine in Tibet

What to Eat in Lasa Tibet 
Tibet, in the western part of China, known as the "Roof of the World", is famous for its unmatched beauty and ancient history. Due to the extremely high altitudes, and harsh climate, Tibetan has had to adapt to them. So are Tibetan cuisine. Tibetan food is not only sustenance, but also helps Tibetan people survive the harsh climates. Their food keeps them warm, gives them energy, helps them with the high altitude, and gives them nutrients essential to the harsh climate. Due to the high altitude of Tibet, water boils at 90 degrees making cooking with water impossible, and vegetables are scarce in the high altitude, so Tibetan cuisine has become very specialized. The main ingredients are meat, and dairy products. The foods in Tibet show a strong similarity to that in India and parts of China, but is uniquely Tibetan.

Tibetan Meats
People living at higher altitudes generally consume more meat than those of the lower regions, where a variety of vegetables are available. The most commonly eaten meat in Tibet is beef, and mutton. Beef and mutton contain a lot of protein which is helpful in fighting the cold. Many Tibetans often eat raw meat. Dried beef and mutton strips are also popular foods in Tibet. The dried meat is crisp and tastes good, and can be eaten raw, since the cold temperature in the winter has killed bacteria during the process of drying making it very safe to eat. The dried meats can be stored and are useful when traveling long distances. Tibetans are also very fond of sausages. Blood sausage, meat sausage, flour sausage and liver sausage are very popular among Tibetans.

In the past, in the countryside of Tibet few people ate chicken and some even freed roosters, thinking it was unworthy to "kill a life for a handful of meat." At present, chickens, eggs, pork, beef and mutton have all become common foods. In many Tibetan cities or towns, where there is an abundance of food, Tibetan food is supplemented by Chinese food, mostly Sichuan food. Vegetables and fish have become available in the markets. Along with changes in diet, some habits, including eating raw meat, have been replaced by scientific, nutritious and hygienic diet therapies.

Tibet Tsampa
Tsampa is the staple food of Tibetan people. Tsampa is a dough made with roasted barley flour and yak butter. There are several ways to prepare Tsampa. The Tsampa served with buttered tea is salty, while the Tsampa made into porridge is often sweet. Tibetan people eat Tsampa at every meal, and when traveling, it is brought along as a ready-made meal. To create Tsampa, Tibetans put some ghee (yak butter) in a bowl, pour some boiled water or tea into the bowl, add some roasted barley flour into the water or tea, mix and then knead the mixture into dough balls and eat them.

Tibetan Beverages
In Tibet, there are several kinds of beverages that are staples at every meal. Buttered tea, sweet tea, and chang are the most common. Butter tea gives the drinker energy and so is especially suited to high altitudes. Beloved by nearly all Tibetans, butter tea is drank while eating Tsampa. The buttered tea is quite salty, some people think it tastes more like soup broth than tea. Tibetan sweet tea is similar to English and Indian teas. The tea, along with milk and sugar are boiled together giving the tea a distinct flavor. Chang, a thick, white barley beer is sweet and low in alcohol content.

Tibetan Milk Tea
This popular dish was named after its creator Li Hongzhang. During The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Li Hongzhang was a top official in China's capitol. His official duties took him to the United States, where he held a banquet for American dignitaries. His chefs found it difficult to create Chinese dishes because a lot of ingredients used in Chinese cooking could not be found. Li Hongzhang suggested the chefs take whatever ingredients they had available and mix them together in a stew. The dish was very popular, and upon returning to China, Li Hongzhang served it to his fellow officials and it became a hit. This dish contains squid, tofu, sea cucumber, ham, mushrooms, chicken, and many other ingredients. It truly is a hotchpotch.

Where to Eat in Lhasa Tibet
For a list of places to eat in Lhasa and Tibet during your tour for your reference, the following are the most popular places and restaurants to eat in Tibet and Lhasa:

Dunya - it's run by a Dutch guy and has European/Asian food and wine that can't be compared to anything else in Tibet . They also do momos and some Chinese dishes. It has a great atmosphere and after trekking in the mountains and eating rice and tsampa, it's nice to come back to Lhasa and have delicious food. It's on Beijing Dong road, next to the Yak Hotel.

Crazy Yak Saloon lies next door to Kirey Hotel on Beijing East Road. It has uniquely Tibetan decor and furnishings. Tibetan food has a good reputation here and the yak meat comes recommended. The other highlight is the Tibetan song and dance show from 19:30 to 20:30 every evening.

Ethnic Restaurant lies opposite the Kirey Hotel, on East Beijing Road, and it is one of the largest Tibetan restaurants in Lhasa. The restaurant serves aweto chicken and aweto beef as well as some common dishes.

The Yak Hotel has a restaurant on the top floor which has amazing views of the Potala.  You'll get some great photos, especially in the evening, but the service is rubbish. The food is OK, they do good momos, but you'll be waiting a long time for them and trying to get change means a staff member has to run all the way downstairs to the reception. Still it is a nice place to chill out looking out over the fabulous mountains.

The New Mandalais a great place in the Barkhor to eat, with views out over the Jokhang. It's an open air rooftop with awnings over the tables so you don't get too hot in the summer. It's a good refuge from the crowded pilgrim trail below and lets you observe all the goings on with a cold drink in your hand and some good Indian food on its way to you. Service is not the best but hey you're there to relax and soak in the atmosphere so you've got all the time in the world.

Snowland Restaurant next to Snowland Hotel on Mentsikhang Road has a range of western food, Tibetan food and Nepalese food. Its Nepalese food and pizza are delicious. The price is moderate when compared with the excellent quality of the food.

Tashi Restaurant, close to Penthoc Guesthouse and Tashi 2 in the Kirey Hotel is a favorite of many travelers. It is clean, quiet and the staffs speak good English. They offer Tibetan food including Tibetan momos, tsampa, thukpa and fried yak meat as well as spaghetti, mashed potatoes and fries.

Tibetan Cafeteria is located west of Middle Beijing Road. It offers Tibetan food such as fried mutton chops, radish stew, yak meat and potato buns.

Other Restaurants in Tibet and Lhasa
Aloo Gang is located on Duosengge Road. It serves veggie food, yak butter tea and soup.

Barkhor Cafe has various drinks and foods and a few PCs with internet access are available. Its rooftop terrace is popular among travelers since you can enjoy drinks watching the sunset over the Jokhang Temple.

Beimei Fast Food (North America Fast Food), on Beijing East Road, serves hamburgers, hotdogs and soups etc.

Curried Potato Restaurant is located at the first crossing on the right of Jokhang Temple and offers delicious but cheap food such as curried potato, curried barbecue and yogurt.

Hard Yak Cafe in Lhasa Hotel has a range of expensive western food and a good ambience. Lhasa Hotel also has a fast food stall on Mentsikhang Road serving hamburgers and fried tomatoes.

Kailash Restaurant on the rooftop of Banak Shol Hotel on Beijing East Road is also a great place to dine. With pleasant and friendly service, the restaurant serves food including a nice breakfast, yak burgers and many vegetarian options too.

Makye Ame Restaurant on the southeastern corner of Barkhor Street is often busy with western travelers. It serves tasty dishes with pasta and pesto and makes good coffee. A few computer terminals make emails possible too.

Xinfeng Restaurant is located at the East Beijing Road provides all kinds of European food, especially the grilled burgers.

Aside from the above-mentioned restaurants, the night market on Duosenge Road is an interesting place where you can get street food and drink at very reasonable prices.

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