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Lhasa Moon Tibetan Cookbook, The

by: Wangmo, Tsering and Houshman, Zara

Ithaca NY: Snow Lion Publication 1999, $19.98, Paperback
ISBN: 1-55939-104-9

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 1999 Issue: 6(3) page(s): 22 and 23

Lhasa Moon is a restaurant in San Francisco featuring mostly foods of this cultural group and its owners do not consider people residing in Tibet, a Chinese minority population. The introduction clearly states that they and others believe Tibet is its own country and not part of China. This the only political statement in the book.

Tsering's family comes from the Kongpo Valley in eastern Tibet, and though she grew up in Bylakuppe in the South Indian jungle before coming to the United States, she did learn her native dishes from her mother and graciously shares them in this, a rare cookbook about the foods of this culture.

The introduction speaks of Tibetan foods and that tsampa, a roasted barley ground into flour, is a staple of the diet. It also speaks to the introduction of Indian foods and tastes in the Tibetan diet due to proximity, cultural exchange, and families who lived there, such as hers did. Daily meals and celebrations are explored as is food and ritual in Tibetan Buddhism.

Before providing recipes, special foods are detailed. Learn about droma, the small cluster of sweet roots somewhat akin to the sweet potato, emma, also known as Sichuan pepper, garum masala an Indian spice mixture, and ping, which is very much like cellophane noodles. All recipes are titled in English, their Tibetan names in parentheses. Some of the chapter headings are, too. The latter are in food category titles of: Soups, Snacks and Appetizers, Stuffed Dumplings (Momo), Noodle Dishes (Tukpa), Meat Dishes (Sha), Vegetable Dishes (Tse), Breads and Tsampa, Sweets and Desserts, Beverages, and Cheeses.

Before each chapter, and before each recipe, there are cultural and/or culinary details of interest. For example, prior to the Pulled Noodles in Beef Soup which is Tentuk, you learn that this favorite dish throughout Tibet is a meal-in-a-dish and that the name really refers to tearing off small flat rough-shaped pieces of dough.

Before the meat chapter, the introductory page advises that even though most Tibetans desire not killing animals, they genuinely enjoy eating meat, and they like to eat fat, skin, and organ meats; and adore chewing on bones. One learns that yak and mutton are most common, as is goat, but that pork and beef are eaten less often, and that most people avoid chicken and fish and other small animals.

Ms. Wangmo's cookbook shares recipes of the most popular dishes served at Lhasa Moon, provides an excellent overview of foods grown and eaten in Tibet, discusses daily and celebration foods, and lists substitutions when special ingredients are unavailable. The author is an actress, singer, and dancer, and the recipes are from restaurant of the same name. They help anyone to Ngotsa manang ne choe or eat shamelessly the foods of her heritage.
Pulled Noodles and Beef in Soup
1 Tablespoon corn oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 pound round beef, thinly sliced
1 tomato, chopped
1 four-inch piece daikon, peeled and thinly sliced
8 cups tupka broth, recipe follows
1 cup uncooked Tentuk or pulled dough, recipe follows
1 cup chopped spinach leaves
salt to taste
1. Heat oil, then saute onion, garlic, and ginger just until the onion starts to brown.
2. Add beef and stir-fry until no longer pink; do not over cook.
3. Add tomato, daikon, and broth and bring to the boil, then add the pulled dough, turn off the heat, then add the spinach and stir, and the salt to taste. Serve immediately.
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon oil
1. Mix flour and two-thirds of a cup of water into a ball and knead until very elastic.
2. Roll the dough into a cylinder about half an inch in diameter. Brush with oil, cover, and set aside.
3. When ready to make the soup, pull off pieces by flattening the end of the cylinder with your thumb and index fingers. Put the pulled pieces on an oiled plate. When done making all of them, cover with a slightly damp cloth.
Note: These flour and water dumplings can be used in Tupka Broth and other soups.
Tupka Broth
8 ounces beef, brisket preferred
1/4 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
6 cloves garlic, smashed with side of a cleaver
2 two-inch pieces fresh ginger, smashed with side of a cleaver
3 quarts water 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
1. Boil all ingredients until the meat is soft; about an hour.
2. Cool the meat about an hour, then shred and refrigerate it. Refrigerate the liquid separately, and when cool, remove the fat that congealed on the top.
Note: When ready to serve, mix meat and broth, and add cooked tentuk, if desired.

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