Monday, April 30, 2007

Thibetan Cuisine

I don't think anybody spells "Tibet" with the "h" anymore. But I like to.

You can't really know anything about a nation's food, I feel, if you've only ever tried it once. This is why, even though my brother and sister-in-law's city is replete with ethnic restaurants, both times I visited them I wanted to go to the same Afghani one. (That, and the food there is really really good.) I've never had Afghani food anywhere else . . . not even in London.

(An aside: can anyone help me out with an alternate term for "ethic restaurants" and "ethnic food"? Because technically hamburgers and hotdogs could also be ethnic. It's like claiming one doesn't have an accent. Of course one does. Everyone has an accent. I feel I'm being very inaccurate when I say "ethnic," but I feel I'm being confusing and long-winded if I say, "I like food which is native to an ethnicity different to mine.")

I've never had Thibetan food anywhere but Noho, either. The first time I visited that fair city (or that interesting large town, I mean), I was hanging out with Holly, and we both thought that Lhasa seemed like an interesting place to get lunch. It turned out to be a rather surprisingly bland place to get lunch, but it was sort of a comforting blandness, like Cream of Wheat. Plus the decor and atmosphere were pleasant. So on Friday I decided to go back and give it a second shot.

Still bland. I prefer, as Former-Manager-Frank put it when I discussed this with him later, "to have my tastebuds assaulted." On the other hand, the thing with understated food is that you have to concentrate to pick out the flavours, and if you do, it can be pretty interesting after all. So I concentrated on the watery yellow lentil soup that came first, and realised it tasted like coriander (aka cilantro). I love coriander. Then I concentrated on the stir-fry and the steamed Thibetan roll. The roll was something like a dumpling (which is really fun to say out loud, because "something" and "dumpling" almost rhyme and it's a cute, chubby sort of rhyme) and tasted like yeast. In a good way. The stir fry tasted like a stir fry, without being overwhelmingly salty or soy-saucy. It was also nice because the vegetables were just the right cooked-crunchiness. Do not, I repeat, do not serve me soggy vegetables. (Please.)

I could never be a food critic because I don't really have that refined a palate (except maybe when it comes to coffee), and what I can pick out often doesn't sound very complimentary when I say it (see above), even when I enjoyed the experience. But I did enjoy the experience.


Heather said...

i have had that same frustration with the term "ethnic food." now i'm thinking about it in terms of "international fiction." what does that mean?

dave grosser said...


Christianne said...

On the contrary, I actually read this entire post thinking, "I love the way she's describing her experience of these foods and how her whole personality just comes into a sort of package deal along the way." So yes, I think you CAN write about food.

Thanks for sharing this. I'm sorry I can't offer any alternatives on "ethnic food" to help you in your puzzle on this right now. Well, maybe one. How about "cultural cuisine"? (I know, I know -- totally overused.)

By the way, thanks for visiting my blog of late. I'm glad to have met your acquaintance! :)

David A. Zimmerman said...

The Smothers Brothers used to wear badges that said "Think Ethnic." They were comedians, but it does confront the "ethnic as other" impulse a bit. How about "Majority World Cuisine"?

Jenn said...

Heather--hmm, yes, I see the problem.


Christianne--thanks for visiting, too. I've seen you on enough other people's blogs, I decided I should just pop over and say hi! "Cultural cuisine" might work; but then, we all have cultures, too. (I'll leave it to the reader to decide what sort of cultures we're talking about here.)

Zimmer-man--so then, would I be calling Thibetan food "minority world cuisine"?

Jenn said...

Oh wait. I get it . . .

(No. I have no cultural biases. Not at all!)

Barry Pike said...

Things I like:

-this phrase, very much,
"because 'something' and 'dumpling' almost rhyme and it's a cute, chubby sort of rhyme" very much.

-your observation that you have to try it more than once to know what you think about it...that is a thoughtful truth about things other than food, too. Not true about everything, though.

-reading about your enjoyment of "international cuisine."

Jenn said...

Thanks, Barry.

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