If someone asked me ‘What is so special about Tibetans?’ I would say that they are fun-loving and extremely hospitable people. We have lived in a Tibetan area for almost 20 years and we regularly get invited to stay, not only with with our Tibetan friends, but also by Tibetans we meet while travelling. A nomad will often stop his motorbike, point out where his house or tent is and invite us to come and drink tea. Whenever we visit a Tibetan home, the salty butter or milk tea will be ready in no time and bread will appear on the table. ‘Jia tong, gori su, su, su!’ ‘Drink tea and eat bread, please eat!’
They will tear off a big piece of the large round bread and place it in your hands. ‘Su, su!’ Tibetans generally eat bread, but when they have the money, or when it is time to slaughter an animal, they eat meat. I don’t care much for mutton or yak beef but I love their bread and they love it when they see that you enjoy their food. Tibetans eat different kinds of bread: fried, baked or steamed. Traditionally the bread is cooked in a large cast-iron skillet, which is buried in the ashes of the fire outside the home.
I like to make a round Tibetan flat bread to the traditional recipe below. It’s very tasty and as it doesn’t need time for the dough to rise, it’s ready in about 20 minutes. So if you have unexpected guests and no bread to serve, give it a try. Feel free to be creative, for example you can add sugar or honey to make a sweet bread. You could also experiment with other grains or add some herbs or seeds.
The combination of steaming and frying gives this bread a chewy-yet-crunchy texture. It keeps well. Break off pieces and dip them in Tibetan butter, tea, soup or sauce.
- 190g Plain flour
- ¼ – 1/2 tsp Table salt
- 2 tsp Baking powder
- 135ml Water
- 1.5 tbsp Olive oil (Tibetans would use a dark canola oil)
- 2 tbsp Water
- Medium-sized bowl
- 20cm Non-stick skillet or frying pan
1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder.
Add the water. Mix until well-blended. It will look like a thick pancake batter.
2. Coat the bottom of a COLD skillet with the oil. Pour the dough into it. Wet your hands with water and pat the batter to the sides keeping it round and neat.
3. Drizzle the water around the perimeter/outside edge of the pan. Turn heat to medium. As soon as the water/oil mixture at the edge of the pan begins to sizzle and bubble, COVER. Lower heat slightly.
Steam/cook for ten minutes.
4. After ten minutes, the bread will have risen.
5. The underside will have turned golden brown and absorbed the oil and water.
6. Loosen edges and flip. Cover. Cook for an another five minutes.
The flip-side will not be as pretty.
7. Remove from pan and allow to cool a few minutes on a rack before breaking it in pieces or slicing it. Because the ‘crust’ is ‘chewy’ kitchen scissors or a sharp pizza wheel make easy work of cutting. Enjoy!