Zanba (roasted highland barley flour), highland barley wine and buttered tea
The Qinghai-Xizang Plateau has vast prairie with plenty of water and lush grass. The economy of Tibetans mainly focuses on plateau animal husbandry and farming. Sheep, goat and yak are main domestic animals, and highland barley and wheat are main crops. Zanba, highland barley wine, buttered tea, flesh, milk, etc are main food and drink for peasants and herdsmen.
Zanba is transliteration of Tibetan, and it means "parched flour", which is a common traditional food for Tibetans. It is made by drying highland barley in the sun, parching the barley and grinding the barley into flour in water mill. It is ground into coarse or fine flour according to different flavor, and it also can be ground into refined Zanba by removing the bran. Zanba is divided into several kinds: highland barley Zanba, pea Zanba and mixed Zanba. Fine barley Zanba is the top-grade Zanba, and it is usually eaten in festive occasions or in entertaining guests. The way of eating it is: pour a little buttered tea into a bowl first, add some butter, fine milk residue and white sugar into it, and then put the Zanba flour into the bowl. Then hold the bowl with the left hand, mix them with the right hand in the bowl to and fro, and mould them into small balls for eating after they are mixed thoroughly. Zanba is nutritious and is easy to carry about. It is the most convenient food for the Zangs living in plateau. When they go on a long journey, if they bring a bowl or Zanba bag, Zanba, butter and dry milk residue, no matter where they are, they can use water instead of buttered tea to make a meal of fragrant and nice Zanba without lighting a fire to cook.
Barley wine is main beverage welcomed by Tibetan men and women, young and old. It is called "Qiang" in Tibetan, and is a kind of light wine made of highland barley. It's simple to make the wine: firstly cook the washed barley, add distiller's yeast into it after it is cool, put it into pottery jar, seal the jar and cover it with Tibetan blanket which can increase the temperature make the barley ferment in the jar. Unseal the jar after several days, add an appropriate amount of pure water in the jar, and then seal it again for one or two days to make it. Barley wine is similar to yellow rice wine, which appears light yellow and tastes pure sweet and a little bit sour.
The Zangs regard toasting barley wine as a sincere courtesy when entertaining honored guests. If you sojourn in a Tibetan home, the host will entertain you with barley wine. The guest should take hold of the wine cup with both hands, shouldn't decline, and should drink three cups of wine continuously. Another way of drinking is to substitute a cup of wine with a mouthful of wine, which is to give consideration to people who have little capacity for wine. When the host pours a cup of wine, the guest takes it over, make the forefinger stained with the wine and flick the finger for three times to offer the wine to god of heaven, earth and dragon. Then the guest sips a mouthful of wine slightly, the host fills the cup, the guest drinks a mouthful again, and the host fills the cup again. The guest should drink the third cup of wine with bottom up, or it would be considered a breach of etiquette.
Buttered tea is called "Jiasuima" in Tibetan, which is Tibetan traditional drink. It is necessary everyday food, and is also excellent drink for entertaining guests. The way of making it is: boil brick tea in water for a long time into red thick juice, pour the juice into a specially made round wood pail which is 3 to 4 chis (traditional length unit) long with a diameter of 6 to 7 cuns (traditional length unit), and add an appropriate amount of butter (oil extracted from milk of cow or sheep) and salt. A special stick is used to beat the tea up and down in the pail to make the butter and tea dissolve fully. Then it is poured into a pot or boiler, is put on slow fire and is ready to be poured out for drinking.
Buttered tea is a kind of very nutritious drink being suited to high and cold region. It can resist coldness, promote body fluid and quench thirst, and get rid of fatigue. Tibetan people are bound to drink several cups of buttered tea in the morning and then go to work. There is a rule for drinking it: the cup is filled while drinking, and you can't continue drinking, you let it be when the host fills it, and drink it down when you take leave. Thus and only thus it is in keeping with the habit and manners of the Tibetan people.
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