The traditional staple food of Tibetan: Tsampa or roasted barley flour

Tsampa or roasted barley flour is a traditional staple food of Tibetan, for thousands of years, Tsampa has been the traditional staple food of Tibetan people. It is made of roasted whole-grain barley and is very easy to prepare, both at home and whilst travelling.

There are several ways to prepare Tsampa or Roasted Barley Flour and the process of making Tsampa is quite simple. All we do is to wash the whole barley grains, then roast them with sand or alone, and finally, we grind the roasted grains into powder. After that, it is ready for use.

How to make Tsampa, Roasted Barley Flour

In the farming areas, people mainly use water mills but in the nomadic areas, people use hand-mills to grind the roasted barley. There are few different qualities of Tsampa depending on the process of making Tsampa or the quality and the freshness of barley. Some Tsampa or Roasted Barley Flour is ground into very fine powder and others are quite coarse.

Water mill

Common form of eating Tsampa or Roasted Barley Flour

The most common form of eating Tsampa or Roasted Barley Flour is a porridge which we call “chamdur”. This is especially suitable for small children or patients as it is easy to swallow. Another form is Tsampa dough balls or “ba”; which can be molded by hand and eaten piece by piece. It is also possible to make Tsampa cakes by adding more butter and cheese to the dough.

Tsampa or Roasted Barley Flour is also found in Nepal, Bhutan, parts of Mongolia, Buryatia and nearby countries. In Turkistan it is called talkhan and in some parts of north China it is known as tso-miyen. In Indian Bihar Tsampa is made from chickpeas (sattu).

A European variation of Tsampa or Roasted Barley Flour can be found on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Finland’s talkkuna and nearby Estonia’s kama. “Gofio”, which is made from corn, is very popular in the Canary Isles, from where it spread along the Caribbean (Cuba, Dominican Republic) and Venezuela, Argentina, Chile. In North America it was part of the diet of some native inhabitants.

Barley farm

Barley:

  • Decreases levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood, thus decreasing the risk of heart disease. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2006.
  • Barley is a rich source of vitamin E and the whole vitamin B complex. It contains many important minerals (phosphorus, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, manganese, copper and zinc), eight essential amino acids and phenolic substances with antioxidant characteristics, is rich in fiber (insoluble and soluble), and has a large ratio of beta-glucans. It has also been found that juice from fresh young barley leaves is effective in cleaning and detox.
  • Nutritional value is in the form of saccharides.  Barley contains 75 to 85 %  saccharides, 11-13 % proteins and 2-3% fats.
  • It is the key ingredient in making beer and whiskey.  The meal is used as a base in soups, barley flakes in cereal products, and barley flour is added to pasta. Coffee substitutes frequently contain barley, and because of its high nutritional values, barley is used in animal feed.
  • Barley is one of the oldest agricultural crops. Cultivated more than ten thousand years ago, it spread from eastern Asia to North Africa and was the food of the gladiators and soldiers of ancient Greece and Rome. Infusions from barley were used to feed infants and as a strengthening agent for the sick and convalescent. Grain was also used as a measurement unit of weight and length.
  • In the region of the Czech, Republic barley was cultivated 5000 years ago and used to make porridge and flour but was later largely replaced by wheat.

 

More information about Tibet and Tibet tourism

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