When you ask extraordinary Indians about Tibetan meals gadgets, you’ll usually hear solutions like Momos, Chow Mein (no relation to Tibetan delicacies) and Thukpa. However the final staple meals of the Tibetan neighborhood and others residing within the high-altitude areas of the Himalayas starting from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh is the easy ‘Tsampa’ or ‘Tsamba’, a nutty-tasting flour constituted of roasted barley, which allowed previous generations to outlive harsh climates.
Typically consumed with salted butter tea or cheese, salt and yak milk, Tsampa is what many Tibetans take into account their ‘true meals’ – wealthy in vitamin and an integral a part of their heritage.
“Rising up in a Tibetan refugee settlement in Ladakh, consuming Tsampa was an integral a part of our on a regular basis life for the reason that time we had been born. It’s a staple meals for us. Our mother and father would frequently serve us Tsampa and Cham-dur (‘Tsampa porridge’). Tsampa has immense well being advantages because it’s excessive in fibre and important minerals. However as youngsters, we might devour it with out actually fascinated about the well being advantages,” says Tsering Dekey (36), a former public relations skilled who runs Tibet Meals, chatting with The Higher India.
Tibet Meals is a startup Dekey based in June 2019 alongside her husband, Tehor Wangdue Dorjee (41), member of parliament, CTA (Central Tibetan Administration)/Tibetan Authorities In-Exile and a social employee.
(Picture above of Tsering Dekey and her husband Tehor Wangdue Dorjee, co-founders of Tibet Meals)
Wangdue was by no means fairly keen on Tsampa as a baby rising up within the Bir Tibetan Colony, positioned within the Bajinath Valley of Himachal Pradesh.
“To be very trustworthy, I used to be not keen on Tsampa. Nevertheless, my notion has modified since I’ve been taking care of my ageing and diabetic mother and father for about 15 years in Bir village. Diabetic sufferers have so many restrictions concerning what sort of meals they’ll devour. Indian docs used to suggest Tsampa and different wholesome barley merchandise. Even our sowa rigpa (Tibetan conventional medication) practitioners would extremely suggest Tsampa to my mother and father. This was once I was interested in Tsampa,” recollects Wangdue.
Given the well being advantages of Tsampa and its historic affiliation with Tibetan tradition, Wangdue went on to analysis the provision of the nutritious barley in India and located that the very best grades had been discovered within the increased altitudes of the Himalayas.
As this NPR report notes about Tsampa’s well being advantages, “As a result of the barley utilized in tsampa doesn’t should be closely processed, it retains extra vitamins, and the flour’s healthfulness rivals that of different historic grains. Tsampa is excessive in fiber and important minerals and it’s prebiotic, which means it helps promote the expansion of wholesome intestine micro organism. It has a low glycemic index, which helps hold blood sugar from spiking.” It’s additionally in any case, what His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has for breakfast each morning according to certain reports.
Even earlier than their marriage in 2017, each Dekey and Wangdue would share concepts about Tsampa, its well being advantages and the concept of creating a enterprise round it. Then, two years after their marriage, Tibet Meals was born.
In the present day, out of a small manufacturing unit of their residence in Bir, Tibet Meals makes and sells packets of conventional Tsampa and Ney-Thuk (Barley Porridge) and distributes it throughout India, whereas it has quite a lot of Tsampa Cookies and Barley Tea prepared for manufacturing subsequent month.
Each Dekey and Wangdue are merchandise of the Tibetan Youngsters’s Village (TCV) colleges constructed all through India by Jetsun Pema, the sister of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. These had been establishments the place hundreds of refugee youngsters from Tibet and different Himalayan areas discovered an honest schooling and maintained their Tibetan Buddhist roots.
Following her stint in TCV-Bylakuppe in Karnataka, Dekey completed faculty on the Bishop Cotton Ladies’s Christian Faculty in Bengaluru, whereas Wangdue accomplished his commencement from Panjab College. After faculty and one other brief course, Dekey turned a public relations skilled working for companies in Delhi and freelancing.
Following a profitable stint in public relations, she based her enterprise in Dharamshala known as Yakoooh. This on-line e-commerce platform goals to convey Himalayan arts, way of life, nature expeditions and crafts extra simply to customers in India and the world. In the meantime, Wangdue labored in the USA for a short whereas earlier than returning residence to handle his mother and father and change into a social employee to serve his neighborhood and H.H. The Dalai Lama.
Actually, throughout the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wangdue performed a stellar position in making face shields out of bookbinding sheets (March 2020) and distributing them to frontline employees throughout Himachal Pradesh, Delhi Police, Tibetan settlements, Sowa Rigpa Clinics (Mentsekhang) in India and TCV colleges throughout India.
Working in coordination with the Worldwide Buddhist Confederation (IBC), he additionally helped present oxygen concentrators, ventilators, oxygen cylinders and different medical gear to many Tibetan settlements throughout the second wave of Covid-19 from Might 2021 onwards. Sponsorship for a similar additionally got here from the IBC. However whereas he was actively working for the Tibetan neighborhood throughout the pandemic, the enterprise by no means stopped.
“Wangdue was the mind behind Tibet Meals. Even earlier than we received married, we talked about establishing a startup like this one. He would share lots about Tsampa and the way it’s useful for his mother and father. Earlier than our marriage, we had been doing quite a lot of analysis about barley porridge and Tsampa. As soon as we received married, we put all these concepts into manufacturing,” says Dekey.
“We (Tibetans, Ladakhis) are used to consuming Tsampa as a result of it’s a part of our on a regular basis lives. No person has to show us learn how to put together it. Outsiders, nonetheless, would possibly discover the method a bit of messy whereas consuming it. Since barley may be very nutritious and a staple meals, we felt a duty to advertise our Himalayan and Tibetan conventional meals to a bigger market, however on the similar time work out how we will make the method of creating it for outsiders extra handy. The principle goal of Tibet Meals is to innovate previous Tibetan and conventional Himalayan meals in line with fashionable tastes and life however hold the unique style intact. On the similar time, we hope to create job alternatives in refugee Tibetan settlements and help farmers in Ladakh and Spiti from the place we supply 100% high-grade natural barley,” says Wangdue.
Dekey goes on so as to add, “We glance after the standard of our product, particularly the uncooked supplies which we acquire from locations above 4,200 metres above sea stage. This is without doubt one of the USPs of our product. We additionally conduct common high quality checks earlier than dispatching our merchandise.”
How do you make and devour Tsampa historically?
Based on this weblog submit on ‘Simply Tibetan, Simply Delicious’, the method of creating Tsampa isn’t fairly as easy. As soon as high quality barley grains are sourced from excessive altitude areas like Ladakh, two or three folks would start washing it, which is tedious and time-consuming.
Following the washing course of, the barley grain is roasted. “The washed and dried barley is roasted in sizzling sand till the barley is cooked by – like popcorn, one can scent the roasted barley or ‘yoe’ as we name it,” notes the weblog. The ultimate step includes grinding the roasted barley into Tsampa flour, which is greatest performed in a water mill.
Nevertheless, Dekey has a barely totally different strategy.
“We don’t roast the barley grain on sizzling sand or salt. We simply roast it on a dry pan. If we roast it on the sand, there’s a probability of many impurities mixing with the barley – like small stones. For Ney-Thuk, we roast the barley in the identical approach as conventional Tsampa however grind it additional. The resultant product has the style of barley however in porridge kind. We additionally combine a bit of little bit of Himalayan Pink Salt into our conventional Tsampa and Ney-Thuk. Our elders used to combine a bit of little bit of gur (jaggery) within the Tsampa to make sure an extended shelf life. However we really feel that if we put jaggery (a sweetener), we would compromise the dietary worth. So as a substitute, we add a bit of pure preservative,” she explains.
There are a few fundamental methods of consuming Tsampa.
Based on the British adventurer, journalist, soldier and journey author Peter Fleming, who visited Tibet within the early twentieth century: “You fill your shallow wood bowl with tea, you then let the butter soften within the tea (the butter is often rancid and has a superb tacky flavour); you then put a handful of tsamba in. At first, it floats; then, like a baby’s fortress of sand, its basis begins to be eaten by the liquid. You coax it together with your fingers till it is kind of saturated and has change into a paste; this you knead till you’ve got a type of doughy cake in your hand and the wood bowl is empty and clear. Breakfast is prepared.”
As this pleasant article titled ‘In Defence and Tibetan Cooking (Part 1)’ on Shadow Tibet goes on to clarify: “The watchword is ‘coax’. You must go concerning the course of slowly and gently, ‘folding’ the tsampa into the tea such as you would fold melted chocolate into egg-white when making chocolate mousse. Tibetans don’t use the phrase ‘knead’ (zi) for the method of getting ready tsampa for consuming. The phrase used is ‘yoe’ which might imply mixing or mixing however, I repeat, performed gently. When ready on this vogue, you get a combination that isn’t sticky or doughy however smooth and manageable. This end-product is now known as paag [in Ladakh it’s colloquially known as ‘Kholak’], not tsampa anymore. You may then make handy lumps of the stuff, able to be eaten, with out tsampa sticking throughout your fingers and in all places. A small lump or roll of paag squeezed in your fist is known as daga.”
Skilled Tsampa Makers
“Each of us weren’t skilled Tsampa makers beginning out, however now we’re due to time and expertise. We now have customised our machines to make Ney Thuk or Tsampa. In 2019, we ordered an oat curler machine from Canada, the place my sister lives. As soon as we acquired it, we did some analysis and customised this machine to our wants in Delhi. We now have a small manufacturing unit right here in Bir at our residential quarters. For deliveries, we use the federal government postal service. We do the processing, packaging and advertising at residence,” notes Wangue.
Having mentioned that, the pandemic proved to be an actual battle for the couple.
“Once we launched our merchandise in 2019, we acquired an excellent response. Our merchandise made their approach to Mcleodganj, Karnataka, Darjeeling and Kalimpong as effectively. Through the pandemic, the variety of orders slowed down. However there was nonetheless some consistency so as deliveries, though not as a lot as we had earlier than the pandemic. The pandemic was an actual battle, and even in the present day, it appears like we’re simply beginning,” says Dekey.
Going ahead, the couple is first concentrating on the (Tibetan) Buddhist neighborhood in India since there may be little requirement to advertise or promote Tsampa to them.
“We’re not but on the stage as a startup to market it massively. As soon as we hit these markets, our foremost objective of selling conventional Tibetan/Himalayan meals might be focused on the main cities of India. The ultimate vacation spot is the worldwide market. Our key goal is to share the key of different Tibetan wholesome superfoods to the world,” claims Wangdue.
For the couple the promotion of Tsampa goes past commerce.
It’s deeply ingrained in Tibetan tradition. Again previously, Wangdue recollects how Tsampa was the primary strong meals many Tibetans would eat as infants. “We provide Tsampa to our gods and through totally different events like celebrating the beginning of a kid. We’d additionally supply Tsampa to the spirits of the individuals who die. Again when there was no fashionable medication and somebody was sick, they might make paag (doughy cake constituted of barley flour) and place them on the eyes, ears and totally different orifices of the physique to regenerate ‘power’ inside the sick physique. Actually, there’s a proverb in Tibetan which loosely refers to Tsampa as ‘White Medication’,” he explains.
It’s greater than selling Tibetan wholesome superfoods, however introducing an intimate a part of their tradition and heritage to the broader world as effectively.
(You may order your packets of Tsampa on the Tibet Foods website.)
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)