Faux Authentic Tibetan Food and a Forgotten Indiosyncrasy

For the last few days I’ve been in McLeod Ganj, a town in northern India that is a stone’s throw from Kashmir, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. McLeod Ganj is basically a Tibetan enclave and is where the Dalai Lama calls home. The Dalai Lama gave a three day teaching that ran through yesterday and I attended the first half of of the first day (after that it got a bit too esoteric for me), so I saw his Holiness up close and personal.

McLeod Ganj is an odd place. It is full of monks, Tibetans by birth, Eastern and Western (particularly those with dreadlocks who you walk to the other side of the road to avoid getting a whiff of) pilgrims, and Western students studying Tibetan language and philosophy.

Tibetan cuisine consists largely of meat and heavy carbohydrates, so it is a bit of a contradiction when a number of the “Tibetan” restaurants in town are vegetarian — although that suits me just fine as I haven’t warmed up to the idea of eating meat in a town where my friend saw a cow try to eat a “fresh” samosa from the rack of a small stall and after it fell out of the cow’s mouth onto the ground, the shopkeeper shooed away the cow, picked up the samosa and placed it back on the rack to be sold to the next customer.

The last two nights I ate virtually the exact same Tibetan meal at two different places, but last night’s version at Mama’s, was actually really good. I had a vegetable and cheese (there seems to be only processed cheese here, but it is hard to turn down since it is often in lieu of meat) Thentuk, a hand pulled noodle soup with a broth made from a base of onions, garlic, ginger (or a similar variation) simmered in oil, and vegetable and cheese momos, steamed dumplings made with a whole grain flour. Typically both of these dishes are made with chopped meat, so the versions I ate aren’t entirely authentic, but they were good enough for now. The noodles were pulled as I waited so they were really fresh.

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Before I forget, there is another Indiosyncrasy I left off of my previous list. In Hindi, the word of respect to address both men and women is “ji,” so in India, the English translation is “sir” regardless of the gender being addressed. When I’ve actually been addressed by men here (usually they just overlook me and speak to Josh), I am called Sir. Almost every email I’ve sent to book hotels, etc. has been responded to with an email starting “Dear Sir”. I have even gotten a few addressing me as Mr. Lacey. In these instances, it might just be that they can’t fathom a woman making a hotel reservation. Oh India.

Here are a few pictures of McLeod Ganj.

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