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Home>Tibet Travel Guide>Tibetan Culture>Tibet Highland Barley - Making Your Taste Bud Close to Plateau

Tibet Highland Barley: making your taste bud close to plateau

What is the flavor of Tibet? Firstly, it is a flavor of the plateau. Whether it is highland barley or butter, it is the gift of highland; secondly, Tibetan flavor is also a flavor of labor. The farmer’s sweat, the shepherd’s clamor and the fruit grower’s picking are all the marks of Tibetan industrious labor. Lastly, Tibetan flavor is a flavor of exchanging. The shepherd gives the farmer butter as a present and the farmer sends the shepherd Zanba as a return present. Zanba is one of the main regular food for Tibetan people, read more about Tibetan food here. 

highland barleyhighland barley

According to the Tibetan ancient legend, when the monkeys and Rakshasa women in Zeeland made the original combination, their descendants obtained the seeds of highland barley from the gods. Zetang's Salar Village became the first highland barley field in the whole snow-covered plateau. Later, near the magic highland barley field, the first Zanpu appeared and the first palace was set up. The original source of Tibetan culture benefited from thousands ears of the shaking highland barley in that field.

Tibetan people have never been living without the magic highland barley since the first mouth of Zanba paste the Tibetan people tasted when they were babies. Grains of highland barley are scattered to the hair of the beloved ones when Tibetan people have a wedding. In addition, highland barley is also an important part of the solemn ceremony of Weisang hosted by the elder people.

highland barleythe harvest season of highland barley 

Highland barley, as the main raw material of Zanba which ranks the first among the four Tibetan treasures, has a high nutritional value and plays an outstanding role in medicine and health care. In the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, longevity is related to the habit of eating highland barley. Highland barley is also regarded as an important drug for the treatment of various diseases in Tibetan medicine.

highland barleythe grain of highland barley

According to a modern research, highland barley is rich in protein, β-glucan, flavonoids, tocopherol (VE), various amino acids and trace elements. Highland barley also contains high dietary fiber, abundant vitamins, low fat and low sugar. Due to long-term consumption of highland barley, the prevalence of those diseases related to high blood sugar and high blood lipids is very low among Tibetan people.

Beautiful Highland Barley Field Under the Warm Sun

highland barley

The highland barley growing in the field is lush. The ridges are covered with green grass. The yellow flowers are so bright against the green that many greedy bees are attracted by them. Butterflies are flapping their wings under the sun and flying in the wild. The farmer who is weeding is the scenery of the field and the mountain which is far away is the poem written in the plateau.

highland barley

Early in the morning, I saw farmers holding hoes, carrying highland barley wine and butter tea, walking out of the house and moving forward to the barley fields. The farmers started their day by working industriously in the fields. While I was walking along the Lhasa River, I saw a girl driving a flock of white sheep and the farmers bending over to work in the field. The knee-high highland barley was dancing with the wind. The butter tea was giving off a sweet fragrance in the air.

highland barley

I like the unyielding highland barley in the plateau. No matter it is a barren mountainous area or a fertile sand land, highland barley can grow up strongly in these places where the air lacks oxygen. The grains of highland barley are very plump. The awn of highland barley is so soft that when I whisk it on my face, it feels like a breeze passing through my heart.

highland barley

Highland barley is dancing with the wind. It is like the wave of the sea, waving to the far distance. I watch the happy farmers in the fields, listening to their cadenced folk songs. The highland barley is the unique landscape and the beautiful painting for the farmers. They are glad to work in the highland barley fields.

Highland Barley Banquet

In the eyes of photographers, the endless highland barley field is not only a yellow-green carpet weaved by the hard-working Tibetan people, but also a unique landscape in the plateau.

Walking on the plateau, we see there are several tents setting up along the lakeside. Before the tents, there is a simple catering billboard advertising "Milk Tea, Yogurt, and Fried Noodles". I feel so excited because I think I can eat fried noodles in the plateau.

The Tibetan driver brought a bowl of paste to me and said: “if you eat a bowl of paste, you will not feel hungry this day. And it can reduce your high altitude sickness.”The owner said: "This food is not the same as the fried noodles you ate before. You’d better call it fried powder. It is made of highland barley. The highland barley is ground into powder at first. After the powder is fried, you can eat the fried powder with butter and milk tea. The fried powder is also known as Zanba in Tibetan area.

So, the fried noodle I have to eat is not what I thought before. It is a special food in Tibetan area - Zanba. Tibetan people eat Zanba every day. Zanba is an essential part in Tibetan people’s daily life.

highland barley cakehighland barley cake

There is another special food made of highland barley - highland barley cake. It is not very hard to swallow highland barley cake. When the owner brought out a plate of eight pieces of highland barley cake, the nice smell greeted every one. The highland barley cake was very tasty. We ate up all the cakes in a few minutes.

highland barley winehighland barley wine

Highland barley can also be used to make wine. The highland barley wine tastes savory and mellow. You’d better drink proper highland barley wine according to your capacity for liquor because it is said that highland barley wine has a strong delayed effect. Tibetan people usually entertain guests with highland barley wine in order to show their respect and welcome to the guests.

In the supermarket shelves, many of products are made from highland barley, such as highland barley rice, highland barley biscuits, highland barley milk tea, highland barley wine and so on. Highland barley is a symbolic crop in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, growing in the pollution-free alpine region of an altitude of 3,000 meters. Therefore, all the products made from the highland barley are environmentally friendly and healthy. They all retain the original flavor of highland barley and the nutritional ingredients, tasting particularly good. Join in one of our Tibet small group tours and taste the local way. 

> Read more about Tibetan culture here. 

Master Catherine Jigme

About the Author - Master Catherine Jigme

With exceptional passion and outstanding leadership, Mrs. Catherine has dedicated herself to Tibet inbound tourism and China tour for 15 years. As one of the handful females who see great potential of Chinese inbound tourism, Catherine has made great contribution to promoting Tibet tourism and enhancing the employment of Tibetans and prosperity of local Tibetan community.

Over the years, she travelled overseas with Tibet Tourism Bureau many times to promote Tibet tourism. Currently, Catherine works as the marketing director of Tibet Vista, an opinion leader behind the whole team of Tibet Vista.

Email me about your travel idea

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