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The history of Tibetan cuisine and the story of its arrival in India


India is a melting pot of different cultures. Indian cuisine is a beautiful blend of local cultures and cuisines for those who have taken refuge in life in India.

Here, we are talking about Tibetan food.

Momo is one of the most popular dishes in Tibet (Shutterstock)

Regardless of the season, Tibetan cuisine remains everyone’s favourite. It’s a delicious blend of flavors and textures that pulls your taste buds on an adventure through the mountains and valleys of Tibet.

How did Tibetan cuisine reach India?

Tibetan cuisine has an interesting story of how it came to India. In 1959, when the Chinese attacked the region, the Dalai Lama had to leave Tibet and travel to India in search of a safe haven. The people who accompanied him, including his teachers, members of the ruling council in Tibet during the Qing and post-Qing dynasties until the 1950s, and his family members brought their culinary traditions to the Indian mainland and continued to serve their indigenous dishes such as momo and tukpa. , and «Chico», «Laping», and other varieties among the Indians.

Another theory suggests that it was the Newar traders (Newar or Nipamians, the historical inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley and surrounding areas in Nepal and the makers of its historical heritage and civilization) in Kathmandu who brought the food of the Tibetans to India during their travels along the Silk Road. Their popularity then spread to other parts of the country, eventually becoming the beloved spiritual food of many Indians.

“The Newar merchants have lived in Tibet for years at a time, learning to prepare local foods, whether out of interest or necessity (i.e. limited choice of ingredients),” says Kamal Ratna Toldhar, author of Caravan to Lhasa: A Trader from Kathmandu in Traditional Tibet. When they returned to Nepal, they taught their family members how to make food. And then it became just another hop onto the streets.”

Fried Momo (Shutterstock)

Manju Ka Tila (settlement) in North Delhi is one of the best places to not only experience Tibetan culture and get some very good food, but it is a vibrant and predominantly Tibetan place.

The food scene is so strong here that many people, even from the far corners of town, come to (the settlement) for the food. Even the street-side momos, lappings, and steamed bowls of tokpa sold at the stalls have their own fan following.

Momos: (a type of steamed dumpling originating in the Himalayan region and popular in Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and India).

The origin of the momo is somewhat obscure. However, most people would agree that he is of primarily Tibetan origin.

Momo has become a staple in the streets of India. In 1928, Charles Alfred Bell, British India’s ambassador to Tibet and one of the first “Tibetan scholars,” noted that the locals ate “10 or 15 little dumplings of meat” for lunch.

The meaning of momo in the Oxford dictionary is described as a steamed Tibetan dish, which is prepared by mixing meat and vegetables together.

Vegetarian or not, the obsession of people of all ages with momos is something to watch. This is the dish you find everywhere, not only at street vendors, but also in crowded markets, offices and shops. As a street food, momo is loved by children, youth and the elderly.

Whether you are in school, college, office or mall, you will definitely see momo stands around these places. Whether it is summer or winter, people’s enthusiasm for momo does not change in every season.

It is believed that Mrs. Dolma Tsering, a Tibetan, started the first momo stand in the business district of Lajpatnagar, southeast Delhi, in 1994. When Dolma first arrived in Delhi in the 1990s, there was no barrier to meat among the locals. Because they thought the dish was “chacha” (raw) compared to other street foods.

In India, we have had the opportunity to adapt the best foods to our tastes. It is not surprising, then, that we can now find momos in many variable varieties that have different fillings.

chicken momos

With a delicious chicken filling, momos are undoubtedly one of the easy snack recipes that you can make at home. Chicken momos can be enjoyed best with chili garlic sauce. You can also add any type of minced meat of your choice, and even prepare traditional dipping sauces made with a mixture of fresh herbs and spices.

Fried momos

These crunchy momos get their sweet texture because they’re filled with cooked vegetables, then deep-fried until they turn bright golden brown. Then dip it in some garlic mayonnaise, and you will have a volcano of delicious flavors erupting in your mouth!

Tandoori momos

This is the Indian version of momo that is very popular and loved by almost everyone! Otherwise, how can you prove your “Indianness” if you don’t eat everything covered in sauce, including momos! The rich flavor of tandoori momos is sure to entice your taste buds.

Traditional dishes are sold on the streets of Kathmandu (Shutterstock)

Bukhari Momos

These thick rolled momos are stuffed to the core with chunks of paneer cheese, vegetables and soybeans. And a bowl full of these steamed momos is the perfect and complete food for chilly winter evenings.

Momos with cottage cheese

You guessed it, these momos are filled with delicious cottage cheese mixed with herbs and spices, perfect for days when you crave cheese. Mix some mint chutney mayonnaise to make a rich “dip” for your momo!

Topka (Tibetan noodle soup)

Tokpa, the traditional noodle soup, is believed to have originated in eastern Tibet. The word translates to “a soup of goulash with noodles”. There are many types of tukpa, the most popular of which are “gyathuk”, “pathong”, “drithog”, “bakhthu” and “thenthuk”.

Indians love to eat delicious momos with some warm tokpa.

“The tukpa needs very little fuel and hardly any ingredients,” says Tsering Narbu, who runs the Karakoram Kitchen project, a Tibetan home cooking business in Gurugram on the outskirts of Delhi. It contains only three ingredients – carbohydrates from the noodles, fiber from the vegetables, and protein from the meat – and it’s a complete meal in itself.” For flavours, a pinch of freshly ground black pepper will suffice. The classic Tibetan tukpa also contains churibi (hard yak or goat cheese) which gives it a very special flavour.

According to Narbu, although most winter vegetables such as carrots and peas are used to make tukpa, radishes are indispensable. These days, there are varieties of “bok choy: Chinese cabbage” and spring onions, too. Although the tokpa with long Chinese noodles is the most popular, the traditional Tibetan tokpa, known as “thenthuk,” has rectangular pieces of noodles that are pulled by hand. There is also a cold version of the tukpa known as lamai, says Narbu, which is flat noodles topped with vegetables and minced meat. One needs to stir the vegetables and meat a bit to enjoy the extra flavour.

“The secret to a good tukpa is in the stock,” says Prashant Singh, chief operating officer of Yeti, a restaurant in Delhi known for its Nepalese and Tibetan food. All the vegetables and meat are boiled in the broth and then flavored with herbs. In Yeti, Singh says, Nepalese herbs, such as gendruk, are added. He adds, “We derive another herb called (Jimbo) from Tibet, and this is included in the stock as well.” The best way to get the rich flavor out of any herb is to add it a few minutes before you take the dish off the heat. Besides the taste, the aromas will also draw you in.

Thinthok is another popular Tibetan soup made from wheat flour paste and pieces of vegetables and meat. To prepare this dish, the soup is prepared with vegetables and meat first. Then flatten the dough, cut it into shapes, and add it to the boiling soup at the last minute. This dish is served for dinner and lunch.

Lapping is an authentic Tibetan dish that will surely make you want to eat more. It is a dish of cold, pungent soybean noodles served at every corner of the Magno-ka-tila settlement. The word “laping” literally means “cold noodles,” and it is a popular dish in several neighboring countries, including Nepal and Tibet. It is a cold and sour dish, and is considered a refreshing summer food. The soft, jelly-like texture of Lapping will win your heart.


Tengmu is a simple and fluffy steamed bun, shaped like a flower that melts in your mouth. Tengmu is also pleasing to the eyes as it is rolled or rolled into intricate shapes, served alongside hot sauces or stews, and can be just as delicious.

Made with yeast, flour, and water, Tengmu is a soft flatbread perfect for dipping into rich, flavorful sauces. Unlike momos, which are meat-filled tingmu, regular tingmu is plain or lightly spiced, and is the perfect accompaniment to the savory food of the Indian subcontinent and the surrounding region.

Butter tea

Tibetan butter tea, also known as pu cha, is one of the most unique tea recipes of its kind. It is a salted tea, made by boiling the tea with baking soda and salt, then adding a large cube of butter. This butter is made in a special way in a wooden machine called “Chandong”, and the milk used in it is usually yak milk. The combination of yak milk and butter is believed to help combat the extreme cold of the Himalayan highlands, and has therapeutic benefits as well.

But in India, natural milk and butter are usually used although Tibetan butter tea is made using yak butter.

Tibetan medicine believes that the combination of butter and tea provides a greater balance between the mind and the body than when these two ingredients are consumed separately.

Shavali: (Tibetan dish of flatbread stuffed with spiced meat and cabbage)

Shavali is a savory pastry stuffed with meat and spicy vegetables, which is deep fried for cooking. It is prepared similarly to Indian samosas or Chinese dumplings. Chavali is the perfect snack that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. They are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and are best served with red chili sauce.

Shabta is a dish of fried meat with vegetables and a soft sauce. The name “shabta” means thin slices in Tibetan, a reference to the thinly sliced ​​meat used in the dish. It is usually served with steamed rice or bran «tingmu» Tibetan bread, and is a staple in Tibetan families.