Most have not heard of it, those who have tried it have become addicts. Tibetan cuisine, with its perfect melange between vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes is quickly gaining popularity in the Capital. Today, the Capital has its own Mini Tibet in the form settlements such as Majnu ka Tila (popularly known as MT) and Ladakh Budh Vihar. The first sight when a Delhiite or a Delhi University student enters Majnu ka Tila — a group of Tibetan teenagers perpetually striking their fingers at a carrom board, slurping at noodles from a bowl of steaming hot thukpa. As one walks past, it is quite impossible to ignore the aroma of fresh Tibetan food that fills the air from the restaurants. They serve the ethnic cuisine from the Himalayan Country.
Tibetans, foreigners and Delhiites sharing a tables is a common sight, sometimes leading to interesting conversations between strangers over a plate of momos.
“Most of the people do not mind sharing a table with strangers as long as they get to enjoy their meal. By the time the meal is over, most exchange email addresses and phone numbers,” said Dechen Dolkar, from Sakya House in Majnu ka Tila.
Tibetan cuisine finds itself dominated by meats. Pork, chicken, mutton, lamb, yak and beef, prepared in all conceivable forms — fried, boiled, steamed and dried — make for an ultimate non-veg extravaganza. “I love shapta (beef/pork chilly dry) and tingmo (steamed flour bread). The combination is spicy and makes for a perfect break from the boring campus food. I make it a point to come to MT at least once a month,” said Robin Frey, a student from Ramjas College and a regular at Wangdhen House in MT.
Like most cuisines, Tibetan cuisine too has its own share of condiments. Seben (chilly paste) is an integral part of any Tibetan meal. Served with momos at any stall or restaurant, this paste is fast finding a place on the Indian dining table. Another popular but rich contribution is the syoja (salty butter tea).
An excellent way to wash down a heavy and rich meal, this form of tea is uniquely Tibetan, traditionally prepared in Tibet to fight the cold.
While waiting to be seated, there is a lot one can do. Visiting the Tibetan gumpa (monastery) can be quite a spiritual experience. A multitude of books on diverse Tibetan issues and topics are an interesting prospect for those looking for a good bedtime read. Intricate tangkhas (Tibetan paintings) and idols of Lord Buddha make for perfect shopping before sitting down to place your order.
Innovative methods have been employed to promote Tibetan cuisine. “Due to increasing demand, we have introduced frozen momos and they are selling like hot cakes. All one needs to do is heat them in a microwave,” said Sonam Hishey, a Tibetan restaurant owner.
Tired of eating at the regular Italian, Indian or Chinese restaurant, it may be time to try something new. Nothing short of ambrosia, Tibetan cuisine has traveled a long way from its place of origin and has well fitted into the desi food habits.