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Tibetan Cooking

by: Elizabeth Esther Kelly

Ithaca NY: Snow Lion Publications 2007, $19.95, Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-55939-262-4

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2008 Issue: 15(2) page(s): 24

Authored by a thirty-year practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, she served as the cook at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in upstate New York, home to the North American seat of His Holiness the seventeenth Karmapa. The book offers easy to follow recipes, and provides a personal look at some little known aspects of Tibetan cuisine.

John Daidi Loori, Abbott at the Zen Mountain Monastery says "Food is dharma" and he calls this book well crafted, direct, and a valuable addition to the cookbook shelf of any kitchen. Recipes are for Tibetan tea, steamed dumplings known as momos, and other dishes that are part of Tibetan daily living, celebration, and ceremony. It tells how to roast barley flour (tsampa), make food for offerings (tsok), and make lots of bread and rice dishes, soups, vegetarian items, condiments, and Tibetan New Year foods.

Ms. Kelly tells tales about her life and marriage to a carpet master. She writes about Tibetan meal planning and offers a mealtime Tibetan prayer to the three 'jewels' that pay homage to: Buddha, Dharma, and Sanga, Tibet's Precious Teacher, Precious Sangha, and Precious Community.

The recipes are easy to make. They include items one might not expect to find, such as Boiled Meat, a favorite dish of Tibetans. One learns they like to chew the bones and marrow, and later make a soup stock with this high protein dish.

Khamba Pie, a meat inside a bread, both stewed or more accurately steamed together in a pot. It is a popular lunch dish eaten without flatware. It uses fingers to gather up dough, meat, and vegetables all at once. Sweet Noodles are popular, too, and most often made on a full moon day; they go well with it. They, too, can be eaten with hands, also with chopsticks, or fork; and they are wonderful served with Tibetan tea.

This tea may shock some if they know not what it is. Tibetan tea has salt and butter added, some tsampa, too. It is served for guests and family, and the deities on the household shrine get a portion, as well.

Enjoy the recipes and cultural content, both intended to nourish body and soul. A Lama wrote that they help turn home into temple and table into altar. This book is a great way to experience Tibetan culture along with its gustatory tastes.
Tibetan Khampa Pie
6 cups unbleached flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound flank or another cut of beef, cut into cubes
4 potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
2 tomatoes, cut into cubes
3 scallions. Cut into half-inch pieces
6 Chinese dried black mushrooms, soaked, then cut into quarters, their stems discarded
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1. Mix flour, baking powder, quarter teaspoon of salt, and half cup or more cold water, just enough to make a dough. Lightly knead, then set it aside for half an hour or so to rest.
2. Roll dough into large circle half-inch thick.
3. Put large pot on medium heat, then pour in the oil swirling it to coat the bottom and the sides.
4. Put dough into the bottom of the pot and put it up the sides. Then add the meat and vegetables, the soy sauce, half teaspoon of salt, and a cup of water. Cover the pot and cook over low heat for half an hour.
5. Carefully remove the entire contents and put it on a platter, the same way it was cooked, with dough down, meat and vegetables on top. Then serve.

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