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  • Writer's pictureGlobal Nomad Tibet

9 Tibetan dishes you need to try in Lhassa

Try without hesitation all the culinary specialities that Lhasa offers you. We made you a small selection (not exhaustive of course) of dishes that you absolutely must try!

As you probably know, food is of great importance when discovering a country. We try, we discover, we like it or not. Sometimes we are skeptical. In any case, it is an important part of the experience.

And Tibet offers many delicious and, for some, surprising dishes.

Food is often composed of meat, dairy product, barley or wheat-based dishes. This is not very surprising for a country that relies on pastoralism (traditionally breeding yak but also sheep). Tibet also has farmers, who plant barley or wheat. On the other hand, vegetables do not grow well at such an altitude. We can find potatoes and turnips. There are also excellent nettle soups too. But overall, Tibetans' diet is based on animal products, barley and wheat.

So, which dishes should you try? We have selected 9 for you, although of course there are many others.

1. Salt butter tea of course

Salt butter tea is mythical. It is a tradition shared in several Himalayan countries, whether it is in Tibetan-speaking communities or not. All the calories that are in this tea allow to face the harshness of the Himalayan climate.

To summarise, it is a black tea that is boiled for a very long time and called "cha kö". Then butter is added. Not just any butter, butter from the female yak, the dhri. Or at least from a dzomo (a cross between the yak and the cow). Then salt and mix it for a long time.

Some restaurants serve butter tea, but the ideal is to consume it in a Tibetan family. Certainly the taste is very strange at the beginning, but it is worth to try it at least once.

2. Momos

This is probably the most famous Tibetan dish. Momos are Tibetan ravioli either in the shape of a half moon or in the shape of a bun. Momos are either filled with meat (usually yak meat) or vegetables. They are usually steamed, but are sometimes fried. Momos can be eaten with a meal or as a breakfast. A must try. Note that there are as many recipes as there are restaurants.

3. Thoukpa

It is one of the most consumed dishes by Tibetans in Lhasa. It is the signature dish of all teahouses. It is wheat noodles served in a bowl with broth and meat, sprinkled with green onions. Or with vegetables for vegetarian versions.

4. Tibetan bread

There is a wide variety of Tibetan bread. The one we can recommend is the "Yushang Balep" that you can easily find in teahouses. It is fried and crispy. It can be served with thoukpa (#3). You should be ready to eat something very greasy, but that's also why it is delicious!

5. Lebhing

This dish is based on bean jelly, served cold. It's not as scary as it sounds. It is actually very good and very fresh.

In Lhasa dialect, this dish is called "Lebhing" (ལབ་ཕིང་།).

"Lebhing" is usually cut into large thick slices. The slices are served in a bowl, usually made of paper. Then the slices are topped with chili, spices, fresh green onions and sometimes cilantro. Sometimes some "Lebhing" are cut into cubes, others like grated carrots. Other "Lebhing" are in such a liquid form that they can't really be cut.

You can get Lebhing in the small restaurants in Lhasa.

6. Spicy fried potatoes sold in the street

Lhasa is full of mini restaurants serving just snacks. This is where you can find delicious fries potatoes. Very spicy or not, as you wish.

You can also find these fried potatoes in teahouses.

7. The rice-potato-meat mix

It is also a meal served in teahouses or in small restaurants. Tibetans eat it a lot. That's why you should try it if you want an "authentic" experience of Tibet.

8. Dhri yogurt (female yak)

The female yak is called the dhri. So we are talking about dhri yoghurt here. These high protein yoghurts are served with a little sugar. It is an expensive and very popular product. They are sold in Tibetan markets or in restaurants. Or people order it from their distant relatives living in nomadic areas. A must.

9. Tsampa

Tsampa is the fine flour obtained after grinding roasted barley. It is the staple food of Tibetans. If Tibetan cuisine could be summed up in two dishes, it would be tsampa and salted butter tea. Both are often eaten together for breakfast.

+ Bonus : tsampa cakes

There is a restaurant/bakery in Lhasa which serves pastries made with tsampa. You should definitively try it!


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