Tibetan people don’t use cookbooks – Yeshi didn’t even know that such things existed before he came to the UK. Tibetans learn to cook at a young age by watching and helping in the kitchen or – as in Yeshi’s case – inside the family’s yak hair tent out in the wilds.
Greenhouses have made their way in to the villages in recent years: Yeshi’s sister, Dolma, is pictured above collecting home-grown vegetables for lunch. But when Yeshi was growing up there were no shops or hothouses, and when he was on the Plateau moving the animals from pasture to pasture ingredient variety was more limited still. He used what was available, and learned quickly how to substitute or make do when a key food was missing.
When it’s not possible to source produce that is not local, when instinct comes into play at a young age, and when many people cannot even read – you can see why the cookbook market might be sluggish in Tibet.
Yeshi didn’t learn to read and write until he was an adult, and he had never used scales or measuring spoons before we set to work on our own cookbook. Documenting his dishes using traditional recipe-writing methods was a challenge. Instead, he filmed himself: he recorded everything in real time, and then I took his videos away, played them back in very stop-start fashion, and wrote everything up. Luckily we live in the same house and work in the same space – there were always questions.
All our recipes have been tested by real-life family and friends, so we know that they work. In fact, our chief recipe tester was someone we had never met, which added a whole different dimension.
When we sent the book out to early readers the best feedback of all was from Chinese cookery queen Fuchsia Dunlop, who praised the text as follows:
“Yeshi and Julie are brilliant at explaining how dishes such as momo dumplings and sweet ceremonial rice are traditionally eaten on the Tibetan Plateau, yet their recipes are so clear and reassuring they will appeal to readers anywhere.”
So we can die happy. And you can cook with confidence! Learn to substitute and improvise Tibetan-style with Yeshi’s guiding hand – we can’t wait to make momo-makers of you all. Click here to pre-order Taste Tibet , and remember that a free masterclass with Chef is up for grabs for anyone who does!
We are open the usual hours this week, as follows:
Wednesday: 5-9.30pm (dinner only)Thursday – Saturday: 12-3pm (lunch) / 5-9.30pm (dinner)
Come for takeaway, to dine in or order home delivery through Foodstuff. This week’s menu is live on the website now.
See you soon! Julie and Yeshi