Food Issue 106 Sep, 2010
Text by Shreeya Joshi / Photo: ECS Media

One of the main reasons that I have found to visit Bouddhanath – other than to just enjoy a quiet and uplifting moment while looking up at the magnificent stupa – is to crunch on one of the most famous Tibetan cookies – the khapse.

The khapse is a Tibetan cookie that almost everyone knows about. Traditionally, it’s a delicacy made especially for the Tibetan Losar (or Tibetan New Year). However, nowadays, it can be found in abundance in and around the Bouddhanath area. You can find it quite cheap being sold on carts rolled around by vendors on the streets and around the stupa itself.

This crunchy and sweet Tibetan delicacy is a must-try at any time
of the year

Even though it looks like it takes quite a process to make it due to the variety of shapes and colors it is found in, the khapse is relatively easy to make. It just takes the right amount of flour, sugar, butter and eggs to make the dough for the khapse. Then it is shaped into a variety of shapes, sizes and, sometimes, even a little bit of food coloring is added. One of the most common shapes is the small, rectangular, twisted pieces, while others may be more elaborately shaped into circular discs with intricate patterns. The dough is then deep-fried, which gives the Tibetan cookie its characteristic, scrumptiously golden-brown color.

The reason that people prize this sweet so much is because of its simple authenticity and ethnic values. For Tibetans, it’s a sweet that symbolizes the new year - the happiness and the sweetness of the days ahead - and for the rest of us, it’s a sweet we enjoy simply because of the way it brings a certain feeling of delight as we crunch and munch on it.

One can enjoy this sweet in several different ways. You can either wait for Losar to come around so that you can just bite into this goodie, or, if you are the impatient kind, you can find the freshly made ones all over Bouddhanath. You can have it while sitting around the stupa and enjoying the magnificent view all around you. I assure you, nothing is as peaceful as watching the crowd gather around the stupa in the evening, watching the stupa itself silhouetted against the darkening sky, listening to the whirring of prayer wheels and hymns coming from all directions, and relishing the little piece of the sweet delight in your mouth.

You may also chance upon it in Swayambhu. But, without Losar approaching, it might be a little more difficult to find it here as in Bouddhanath. It may also call on you to do some detective work if you are truly inclined to find this savory sweet. If you are lucky enough to discover it in some corner shop along the streets, take it with you as you work your way up to the stupa. You will find that crunching and munching your way up to the stupa is as satisfying as just sitting down and eating it. You won’t even feel tired while negotiating those long and steep steps as you have something great to keep you company.

The khapse is indeed a sweet you must try. You can say that you haven’t even learned anything about Tibet if you haven’t heard of this famous treat. Its enchanting taste is sure to find a way not only into your stomach, but also your heart.