Food that fuels the Sherpas

Food Issue 170 Feb, 2016

Life in the mountains is hard and demanding; no wonder the food is nutritious and filling. 


Made from vegetables and meat, the ingredients of syakpa, or Sherpa stew, changes with availability, but the hearty, filling nature of the thick noodle soup remains the same. Available vegetables and meat are stir-fried with cumin, onions and garlic and then simmered after water is added to the mix. Flat noodles are rolled from dough made of all-purpose flour, and then added to the stew to give a fuller body. In some places, fermented paste made from daikon greens are added to the stew. As condiment, add a little helping of chili paste or a pungent and spicy paste made from Schezuan pepper.


The starchy tsampa has long been an irreplaceable part of the diet for the local Sherpas due to its accessibility. Barley is roasted and then pulverized into a powdery consistency. Depending on the availability, hot water, milk, or tea is added to the powder. Few pinches of chopped hard cheese can be added as garnish, which will eventually soften to a chewy consistency, giving the porridge a texture to hold on to

Tibetan flatbread

A popular item for breakfast, this fried bread made from dough of all-purpose flour and salt has been a cultural export of this region. Tibetan flatbread is widely available in Kathmandu, and also in the Annapurna trekking circuit, by the local name of ‘Gurung bread’. The flatbread can be eaten for breakfast with an omelet, or can be slathered with honey and jam, as you would with a regular toast.


While the more traditional butter tea is an acquired taste, and is only available if you ask for it, the region has been particularly inventive with its beverages. Try a hot lemon, which is made by adding lemon-flavored Tang in hot black tea, a drink so simple yet delicious, it remains a mystery why no one had thought of it before. Or try hot mango, a warm and sugary mango-flavored drink for that much needed sugar rush.