Category : Food
Eating well is a bit of a problem in Tibet. Even in the cities – which in practise means just Lhasa and Shigatse – you either have to look hard or be ordering something recognisable in a smart hotel to end up with a meal memorable for the right reasons.
Out in the wilds, where if there is electricity it is only available for a couple of hours a day, refrigeration isn’t an option, cooking is done over yak dung fires, and a lot depends on bringing a large kettle to the boil. If you haven’t brought your own supplies, you will find the menu is restricted to noodle soup and egg fried rice. Every day, at every meal.
It isn’t reasonable to complain… life above 3,500m is hard, not much grows and both crops and livestock have to be very sturdy to survive. Gourmet local treats are not in evidence, and yak meat turns up in pretty nearly everything whether you have ordered it or not.
It mainly comes in 2 forms, either dried into small hard cubes, or sealed into foil pouches with enough liquid to retain a bit of softness. Either way is perfect for bringing home to share the experience with family and friends, even if they do end up feeding it to their boyfriend’s dog instead (daughter #1!).
To be honest, a bit of yak is not that bad. It looks like beef but tastes more like goat, especially the dried version which is fairly gamey. The wetter variety is a lot easier to chew but comes apart in unappealing fibres. Eating it fresh is obviously better, although you usually run the gauntlet of the yak meat stall just outside and that can be enough to put anyone off (see below…)
I am sad to confess that the nicest yak meat I tasted on my most recent trip to Tibet was the yak burger with all the trimmings at the Shangri-La Hotel in Lhasa, the night before we flew home. Hopefully I won’t have to eat any more for the foreseeable future.