How to make Tsampa (or roasted barley flour)

Federica tells us how to make Tsampa, a staple of Tibetan diet.

Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • 250g/8oz of good-quality, organic pearl barley
  • Water
  • Good thick-based non-stick frying pan (skillet)
  • Coffee grinder, or spice grinder

Place pearl barley in a bowl. Cover with cold water (at least a good inch over the barley) and leave overnight to absorb as much water as possible. In the morning, it will have swelled to twice its original size, and be quite white and opaque. Drain the barley thoroughly, and spread out onto a clean teacloth. Roll the cloth up to soak up as much water as possible, squeezing the “sausage” lightly to assist the process. Unroll, and ‘brush’ the barley into the middle of the cloth, with your fingers.

In the meantime, heat the pan or skillet over a medium heat. When it’s good and hot, scoop a handful or two of the barley, into the pan. Stir with a wooden fork, to prevent the grains from sticking together. They’ll become translucent, then opaque again, as they begin to dry roast. Keep stirring, until the grains turn a pleasing nut-brown. They’ll be quite dry and “gravelly” in the pan.

Transfer to a large tray, and spread out to allow to cool. Repeat the process until all the barley is roasted. It will be cooked and ready to use.

You can either keep it whole, and add it to stews and casseroles ten minutes before cooking time is up, or grind a quantity in a coffee, or spice grinder, until it is the consistency of flour.

I use a little in the bottom of my teacup to soak up the remaining butter from my Tibetan butter tea!

(Note: the recipe in the Wikipedia tsampa article is the one I added. The article also tells you how to use tsampa in other ways.)

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