Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Good Food Guide to Tibet

picnictable, originally uploaded by mutikonka1.

In his writings about travel in Tibet and western China in the 1920s, Joseph Rock makes surprisingly little comment about what the local people ate. Apart from saying they grew crops such as barley, he almost never mentions food.

He himself travelled with a Naxi cook who he had taught how to cook a few simple European dishes. He also took a folding table and cutlery, and tried to dine in some style as he travelled.

One of the few mentions he makes of Tibetan food is on his first visit to the King of Muli:

"After the lecture the king urged me to partake of Muli delicacies. There was a grey coloured buttered tea in a porcelain cup set in exquisite silver filigree with a coral studded silver cover. On a golden plate was what I thought to be, forgetting where I was, Turkish delight. But it proved to be ancient mottled yak cheese interspersed with hair. There were cakes like pretzels, heavy as rocks.
It was an embarrasing situation but in order not to offend His Majesty I took a sip of tea, which was like liquid salted mud."

Later on he was given gifts of food by the king:

"There were eggs in plenty, two bags of beans for the horses and one of flour; one wormy ham; dried mutton; lumps of gritty salt, more of that doubtful yak cheese and butter wrapped in birch bark.

The dried legs of mutton and yak cheese were literally walking all over the terrace of our house, being propelled by squirming maggots the size of a man's thumb. I was informed that these were the choicest delicacies from the king's larder. As none of my party wanted the lively food, we gave it to the beggars, who fought for it like tigers."

Over the next few posts I will put up some pictures of the food I have emcountered in present day Kham.


Ryan Anderson said...

hello. i just found your site, and i wanted to say that its really a great site. i like the idea, what you are doing. really cool. i'll be checking your site often from now on to keep up with your glad i found it.

mutikonka said...

Thanks. I'm running out of "before and after" pictures comparisons for Kham, so I'll be doing more themed posts like this one on food. I've still got hunderds of pictures to post of various places and poeple in Kham, but it takes me a while to scan them in and upload them. Will probably update a couple of times a week.