Tsamba - Special Tibetan Food
Tsamba, a kind of dough made with roasted barley flour and ghee (pure butter) with water, is traditional Tibetan staple food. It has a certain novelty value the first time you try it, but only a Tibetan can eat it every day and still look forward to the next meal.
The principal material for making tsamba is highland barley which is widely grown in Tibet autonomous region of Southwest China and on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau due to its endurance to the local harshness and coldness. Tsamba is made by drying highland barley in the sun, parching the barley, and grinding the barley into flour in a water mill. It is ground into coarse or fine flour according to different tastes, and it also can be ground into refined tsambaby removing the bran.Tsamba is divided into several kinds, including highland barley tsamba, pea tsamba, and mixed tsamba. Fine barley tsamba is the top-grade tsamba, which is usually eaten in festive occasions or in entertaining guests.
To eat the tsamba, people should first pour a little buttered tea into a bowl. Add some butter, fine milk sediments, and white sugar into it, and then put the tsamba flour into the bowl. Then hold the bowl with the left hand, and thoroughly mix the ingredients with the right hand. Finally, mold the dough into small balls for eating. Other ingredients may also be added to enhance the flavor.
Tibetans eat tsamba every day and bring it as snack food while traveling. As tsamba is nutritious and is easy to carry about, it is the most convenient food for the Tibetans living on the plateau. When Tibetans go on a long journey, if they bring a bowl or tsamba bag, tsamba, butter, and dry milk sediments, no matter where they are, they can use buttered tea, or even only some water, to make a meal of fragrant and nice tsamba without lighting a fire to cook.
Tsamba made of highland barley is not only the traditional food of Tibetan people, but also frequently appears in main hotels in Lhasa as the main dish served to guests from home and abroad. In religious festivals, Tibetans will cast tsamba to express their blessings to each other.
There are two main ways of preparing and eating tsamba. One is to make tsamba dough with Tibetan buttered tea while the other is to make porridge together with beef or mutton and vegetables. The tsamba porridge is known as tupa. Unlike the tsamba dough served with Tibetan buttered tea, tupa porridge is often served with sugar.