Tibetan foods and beverages have diverse of its kind, which found only in Tibetan Plateau regions. Tibet, 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 culture has had to adapt. Tibetan food has also adapted. 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 food in Tibet shows a strong similarity to that in India and parts of China, but is uniquely Tibetan.

Tibetan Cookery background

The Tibetan cookery used to have the local touch. As the influence of the outer food culture began to reach Tibet, there had been three great changes on the Tibetan foods culture. It changed considerably for the first time in the 6th century. At that time trade between the Tibet Kingdom and the central China, even the mid-Asian countries, had increased. Many new cooking materials, such as rice, milk, vegetables and fruits and new methods were introduced into Tibet, and the cooking methods of Tibetan foods were greatly improved.

After Princess Wencheng entered Tibet (in 641), the Tibetan and Han (Han is the largest nationality in China) food cultures began to mix with each other. Tibetan people began to try various kinds of diet and attached importance to medicated diet (treatment using some nutritious food, which also has medical effects on people), as Han nationality people had been doing.

During the 18th century, the Tibetan cookery greatly developed again. At that time, Emperor Guangxu (1875-1909) was in reign in Qing Dynasty (1616-1911). Luxurious banquets were held from time to time. Dishes making developed to an extreme in variety, scale, richness and the cooking skills as well. With the intercommunication of both economics and cultures, the Han diet culture penetrated into Tibet gradually.

There was a Tibetan dish named “GyaSay Liu Chobgyal”, meaning the 18 Han dishes (In the Qing Dynasty the court invented a special type of cuisine for the royal family, which included many elaborate dishes at one meal. It is called Man Han Quan Xi. It is said that it takes three to four days for them to make just one meal). With the influence of the Han diet culture, there were more and more vegetables, fruits, kitchen utensils in Tibet. Such as in Lhasa, Gyangtse, and Shigaze. Even common people in Tibet had mastered some simple Han cooking skills.

The new Tibetan foods culture blended together diet, entertainment, enjoyment, and fun. It came to be accepted by some noble families. However, due to the limit of the economics, geography, transport and the lack of communication, only a small group of noble or merchantmen’s families mastered the cooking skills of the nice and luxurious food and enjoyed it.

During the 1980s, the Tibetan cookery was greatly developed for a third time. With the open policies and the development of tourism in Tibet, new cooking materials were used, and cooking skills were improved. The new Tibetan foods features in diet culture, cookery arts, and the dietary courtesies.


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Amdo Noddle

Amdo, where Tibetan people live, refers to the region where Qinghai, Gansu and northwestern Sichuan Province border each other. Tibetans living in this region like to eat a kind of dough strips – Amdo dough strips very much. It is the common wheaten food in Tibetan families. Method of making: 1. Add some hot water...
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Chu Mok

Chu Mok is the food similar to Jiaozi (the Chinese dumpling), which is the favorite food in China, especially northern China. Method of making: put some chopped meat on a piece of flat round dough strip and roll up it, put the ends together, just as how Chinese people make Jiaozi. Tu-pa is the food...
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Lhasa Beer

It is an all-malt European style lager, but is made from ingredients such as Himalayas spring water, barley and yeast. However, 30 percent of the malt content derives from the husk-less native Tibetan barley which is partly responsible for giving the beer its characteristic crisp clean taste, along with the aromatic saaz ingredient.
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Local yoghurt is a little different because it is made from yak milk, which has a high butter fat content and this makes the yoghurt very creamy. It is still made in the natural traditional way from boiled milk that is cooled and fermented with yoghurt culture. This produces a stronger flavor and some people...
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Yak Meat

Yaks are one of the most common animals on the plateau and the meat is very popular with in Tibet. Locals use many creative recipes to cook the meat and it certainly goes well with drinking Chang barley liquor. Roasted yak meats, fried yak meat and cold yak meat dressed with sauces are all delicious.
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The staple food of Tibetan people is Tsampa, a kind of dough made with roasted highland Chang or Tibetan wine barley flour and yak butter with water. Method of making: grind the roasted Highland Barley into flour, and mix it with ghee. It is similar to parching wheat flour in northern China. People in northern...
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Butter Tea

Buttered tea is the favorite drink of Tibetan people. It is made of boiled brick tea and ghee. Ghee, which looks like butter, is a kind of dairy product of fat abstracted from cow milk or sheep milk. Tibetan people like the ghee made of yak milk. When they make buttered tea, they mix boiled...
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Barley Wine

Made from the highland barley, the main food produced in Tibet, Highland barley wine (also called Chiang in Tibet) is the wine favorite to Tibetan people and is a necessary part at festivals, marriage feasts and on some other important occasions. Method of brewing the wine: Clean the barley grains quickly (the washing can not...
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