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Food and Drink

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Organized tours in Tibet may include a full package with three meals daily, or a half Package with breakfast and dinner only. In Lhasa a minimum package (hotel only) is also available. International cuisine(Western, Nepalese, Indian) is only available in the Lhasa Hotel and a small number of outside restaurants. Few specialist restaurants will offer Tibetan dishes, Guangdong, or Peking dishes. Otherwise the standard cuisine offered in restaurants throughout the Tibetan plateau is Sichuan or Muslim style.

Tibetan cuisine, for the most part, is pretty basic, the staple consisting of large amounts of tsampa (roasted barley flour) and endless bowls of butter tea. Naturally you will have a chance to taste this delicacy during your stay, but it is highly unlikely that you will want to repeat the experience every day! On the other hand, there are some very good dishes to be had. The famous momo: a steamed meat dumpling which resembles the Chinese jiaoze,or Tibetan country-style noodles (then-thuk), and whilst you are in Lhasa you can arrange to have traditional Tibetan bnquet (18 dishes), including lasha (lamb with radish), gyuma (black pudding), thu (cheesecake), and dresi (sweet rice), topped up with copious cups of ‘chang’, the local wine.

In nomadic areas, the staple diet consists of yak meat and mutton (fresh or dried), supplemented by  delicious yoghurt. Cheese also comes in many varieties: hardened cubes which must be carefully sucked to avoid damaging the teeth, moderately soft whisps which are easy to digest, and in East Tibet, an assortment of cheeses similar to cottage cheese and to cheddar(Tib Jo-she). Desserts are not generally served but delicious apples, apricots, peaches, and walnuts are available in season.

During day trips and long overland journeys, it is sometimes necessary to take a picnic lunch – either supplied by the hotels or the local travel agency. Organized tours, which entail camping, will have a cook who can prepare  full campsite meal, or take over the kitchen of a roadside restaurant. In drier regions of West and Far-west Tibet, you must carry more tinned provisions, while in the more fertile eastern regions, fresh vegetables are plentiful. To supplement this diet, you may wish to carry instant soups, cheeses, pates, biscuits, chocolates, coffee, and so forth, which can be very welcome if the weather suddenly turns nasty, or if you have stomach trouble.

Beer and soft drinks are generally served with ll meals in Tibet, but imported alcohol is available only in the larger tourist hotels. Bottled mineral water can be bought easily in the towns. Tea and thermos bottles of hot water are provided in hotel and guesthouse rooms, and this is probably the most refreshing remedy for the dry and dusty atmosphere prevalent on the Tibetan plateau. Boiled water is essential for drinking and indeed for brushing the teeth. Some restaurants will also provide Indian style sweet milk tea or Nescafe. However, butter tea(soja/poja) or salted black tea(ja-dang) are  generally drunk at home. The national alcoholic drinks are chang(chang), a fortified barley ale, and arak (arak), a type f distilled liquor. Dried fermented millet (tomba) is brewed in areas bordering Sikkim and Bhutan, while ‘Lhasa Beer’ (Lhasa Pijiu) and other brands of beer, as well as Chinese spirits, can be purchased throughout the plateau.

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