“They are so cute!”
“I want to adopt one when I grow up! “
This was my first encounter with Tibet. My sister and me were watching young Tibetan monks on TV. There they were, hardly four or five years old, sitting in neat lines, their shaved heads moving back and forth over prayer books. It really was an endearing sight. The show was perhaps filmed in a monastery in Dharmashala, the seat of the His Holiness the Dalai Lama. For a very long time this was the only image of Tibet in my mind. Of young monks, wrapped in maroon robes, running around in a monastery,of them praying before serene statues of Buddha . My idea of Tibet was therefore condensed into this image of the monastery. It was an image without any voice, so to speak. The only voice was that of a faceless narrator providing a voice-over. It was almost like listening to Nik Gowing on BBC World.
Since then my idea of this nation in exile has diversified into a few more images. Of those “TIBET IS NOT A PART OF CHINA” written on rocks near the riverbeds in Manali, of women in chuba selling woolen clothes on makeshift stalls in some obscure town in Orissa, of colourful prayer flags tied like totem across bridges, of Siddharth Kak drinking salty Tibetan tea on Surabhi , of the Dalai Lama, of Ladakh, of Nawang Khechog creating hauntingly beautiful music on a spring night in Delhi. And of agitations. Of refugee settlements. And yes, of Richard Gere.
My first “taste” of Tibet came in the form of a plate of chicken momos. This was perhaps my first meal in a restaurant in Delhi. This is perhaps the first, and perhaps the only encounter with the food of Tibet for a majority of students who study in the universities of Delhi. My next encounter was in Majnu Ka Tila, a refugee colony popularly called MKT on the fringes of Delhi University. Its narrow lanes are dotted with shops selling Tibetan groceries, of karigars crafting elaborate jewellery, of quaint shops selling books and tshirts, their racks lined with CDs of Tibetan music and prayer flags. And then there are hair dressers and tailors. And shops filled with rolls of rich brocade. And cafes and restaurants filled with people . Enough maybe to make a displaced nation feel at home.
Tee Dee is perhaps the most popular restaurant at MKT. It is perched (atleast it seems so once you enter) on the first floor of a building towards one end of the colony. The whole arrangement at Tee Dee makes you feel like you are in some hilly town, and not in Delhi. Maybe its the demographic, of students and Tibetans, that fill its tables at all hours of the day. Maybe its those red curtains. My first meal there was a bowl of Thenthuk (a noodle soup with vegetables and meat/chicken) more commonly known as Thukpa. At 40 rupees it was one of the cheapest dinners one could have while eating out. The other popular dish (and probably the most ordered by students) is Buff Chilli. This is had with Tingmo, a yeasty steamed bread. The slight sweetness of Tingmo perfectly complements the heat of the Buff Chilli and is great accessory to pick of pieces of the meat. I don’t really eat red meat, so I generally order their style of Chilli Chicken to go with it. Yeti, at Hauz Khas Village does a great Nepali style Chilli Chicken that really goes well with Tingmo (recipe for this in the next post).
I have used the list of ingredients mentioned here for making Tingmo, since these are essentially steamed buns.
Active dry yeast : 1 tablespoon
Sugar : 2 spoons
Warm water : 1/4 + 1/2 cups
All-purpose flour : 1 1/2 cups
Salt : 2-3 pinches
Sugar: 2 tablespoon
Oil : 1 tablespoon
Baking powder : 1/2 tablespoon