This weekend the Taste Tibet team celebrated Losar, or Tibetan New Year, a little larger than we have done in previous years. Over the last few months we have finally persuaded a significant number of Oxford's small resident Tibetan population to come and work with us, and this in itself is cause for considerable celebration: it's only taken us four years...
A good party calls for good food and delicious drink. Here are a couple of the things that between us we brought to the table, and without which no New Year is complete in Tibet.
In Tibet, Khabsey is the ultimate celebratory snack food. It is made with just a few ingredients: flour, water, sugar and a little milk. Food colouring is an optional! The mixture forms a dough that is rolled out and and then folded into all kinds of beautiful biscuit shapes, many of which are highly symbolic. These are then deep fried.
Chef Tenzin made the beautiful lotus-shaped khabsey you can see in the main photo above.
The lotus flower is one of the eight auspicious symbols in Tibetan Buddhism. It represents purity. Its roots are in muddy water, but its flower rises above the mud, and is clean and fragrant. A Zen verse says, "May we exist in muddy water with purity, like a lotus."
Tenzin also made the knot-shaped khabsey you see below. This mirrors the knot of eternity, the most recognisable of the eight auspicious symbols. It represents a link with our fates, a connection, a bind to our karmic destiny:
Chang is the Tibetan alcoholic drink made traditionally from barley, rice or millet. It is widely enjoyed during Losar, and also relatively easy to make, provided the right conditions prevail.
This year, I made chang for the first time. My family always make it with barley, and I tried to replicate our home recipe. The barley is cooked, allowed to cool, and then mixed with dried yeast. It is then left an air-tight container for several days. I covered the pot with blankets to keep it warm, just like we do at home. Finally, I added water to the mix. After 24 hours the chang is ready to drink, usually with the barley strained out of it (and a little butter added for decoration):
For the best experience, chang should always be drunk out of a beautiful cup. This lovely bowl is used for both chang and Tibetan tea. Otherwise, the treasure vase, another of the eight auspicious symbols of Tibetan Buddhism, is also a fitting receptacle. This vase is said to pour forth long life. We say the same about chang.
Happy new year, everyone! See you this week, locations and times as below:
Gloucester Green Market
Wednesdays, 9am-4pm, Gloucester Green, Oxford OX1 2BU
Taste Tibet @ Silvie
Thursdays 6.30pm-9.30pm, Silvie Bakery Cafe, 281 Iffley Road, Oxford OX4 4AQ