Blessed to be a witness

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Saturday, March 19th

I've been eating a lot of yak

Tibetan food doesn't have a worldwide reputation. This is because it's largely crap. The food available throughout most of the country, which is very barren, is extremely limited. The staple food is called tsampa, and is roasted barley flour, mixed into a ball with whatever liquid is to hand: tea, water, or chang (barley beer). That's it. It's as unappetising as it sounds, and one try was enough for me. As was my taste, ten years ago in Tibetan China, of the staple drink, which is tea with rancid yak butter melted into it. If anything, this is worse than it sounds.

Yak: tasty

That said, I have actually acquired a bit of a taste for those things that pass for delicacies here. Yak meat is actually rather nice - only slightly tougher than beef, and with a full flavour. When minced up with scallions and other spices, and encased in a dough case and steamed into a kind of soft pasty called a momo, often served with chilli sauce, it's absolutely delicious.

Then there are various breads, some resembling a cross between a chapatti and a nan bread, that, when filled with spiced yak curd and fried yak and vegetables, is called a bobi, and is damn near to a fajita.

Also there's thugpka, which is a vegetable, yak and noodle soup, that's also very palatable, albeit with slightly slimy noodles.

On top of this, in Lhasa there are lots of Tibetan takes on Western dishes. At one French/Tibetan restaurant in Lhasa, called the Naga, I've had 'yak steak-au-poivre' and 'yak bourgignon', which were both lovely.

Yaks: fierce on the outside, delicious on the inside.

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