29th March 2021


Historical promience of Palampur: Tea Gardens and Beyond

Many of our posts have spoken at length about the various cultural influences the great Dalai Lama had on India with his entry into Dharamshala, establishing the path towards Tibetan Buddhism in India. Culture was one thing, but there also came along a vast culinary influence that started here and spread far and wide across the entire Himachal, eventually making its way to the rest of the country too!
While you must feast on the local pahari fare at Rakkh, our resort in Dharamshala, you must also try the varied Tibetan cuisine when visiting the various towns around the resort. Some of it may be common knowledge to you while some may seem unique and even a little grotesque. But every bit of the cuisine has a story and purpose, which we shall explore in this story.

Tibetan cuisine is unique, wholesome and representative of the mountains: Since vegetables are hard to come by sometimes in this region, the foods contain a lot of fats, pulses and meats. Of course more easy-to-grow produce like potato, cabbage, carrots and some hardy greens are common here. Although there is much other seasonal produce in the Himalayas, it does not usually find its way in Tibetan cuisine. 

momos near our resort in dharamshala

Momo: Would it ever be a proper Tibetan food guide without mentioning momo? The word momo actually means dumpling, which is exactly what these are. Momos or rather their original form are not restricted to Tibet; they are popular in various forms (jiaozi from China, for instance). The original Tibetan momo is a meat dumpling filled with yak meat, but you’ll most certainly get a wide variety of vegetarian and meat momos around our resort in Dharamshala. Momos are typically made of refined flour (maida) in the plains but true Tibetan momos use wheat to make their momos. They can either be steamed or fried: Either makes the perfect lunch, snack or dinner depending on your hunger levels!

Yak Meat: Something that is endemic to Tibet and finds itself in Dharamshala here and there is yak meat. Tibetans have sustained themselves on the yak for millennia. This hardy animal has been a source of dairy, wool and when times get tough, the meat. Yak meat is said to be incredibly resourceful for those living in the cold mountains. The meat is eaten in a variety of ways: Stewed, used in stir frys and curries. Usually the meat is smoked and preserved to last them over months since nothing is to be wasted after an animal is used for its meat. Yak jerky is a common snack among Tibetans too. You may not be able to find it around our resort in Dharamshala, but you will find Tibetans and their yaks in certain parts of the town!

peak near our resort in dharamshala

Butter tea: Another common staple that we may seem as odd but has its place in the hills is Po Cha or butter tea! Back in the 7th century when trade routes between China and the rest of the world were opening up, China introduced tea to the hills. The locals added butter to make the tea richer and there you go. Legend says that a Chinese princess married a king in Tibet, which is why the trade routes opened up. We won’t know for sure. What we do know is that this does not use your regular tea leaves but rather something known as Pu Erh tea leaves, a fermented variety of Chinese tea leaves.
Do look out for this unique beverage the next time you’re exploring the monasteries around our resort in Dharamshala. It may seem off putting but try a few sips of this rich tea and you sure won’t go back!

Tsampa:  An essential food that is actually eaten along with butter tea is Tsampa. This roasted barley flour is used in a variety of dishes; it is sometimes mixed with the butter tea as a meal or fried into balls to be eaten as a snack. Consider Tsampa a sort of rice, if you will. Tsampa is considered so integral to the Himalayas that there is even a typeface named after the grain!  

barley near our resort in dharamshala

Balep: This unique pie-like bread is another integral part of Tibet. Also known as Shapale, it consists of a crust and filling that’s baked in an oven and served for lunch or dinner. Yak meat is the common filling, although you can also enjoy it in other meat or vegetable forms.  

Noodles:  While you can certainly enjoy instant noodles at the maggi station of our resort in Himachal Pradesh, Tibetan noodles are a treat in themselves and another classic example of food from an entirely different culture becoming a staple here. Noodles are either eaten in the form of chowmein, the street food that we are familiar with, or served as Thukpa: A rich noodle-soup broth that’s equal parts delicious and healthy.  

The next time you are exploring Dharamshala, Mcleodganj or the other Tibetan areas around our resort in Dharamshala, don’t forget to try some of these and discover the other side of Tibetan cuisine!

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Ghamrota Village Post Office Ballah ,Tehsil Palampur, District Kangra, Jiun, Himachal Pradesh 176061