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How to make Tsampa (or roasted barley flour)

LincLinc Community InstigatorDetroit Moderator
edited March 2008 in Arts & Writings
Federica tells us how to make Tsampa, a staple of Tibetan diet.

Here's what you'll need to make it:


  • Could you please repost? Seems the link doesn't work anymore
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited September 2012
    Ok, here we go.
    How to make Tsampa:

    You will need:
    Large flat iron skillet
    250g organic barley
    Wooden utensil (Fork, spatula, spoon…whatever!)
    Large flat surface, covered in a clean cloth
    Coffee/spice grinder.

    Take the organic pearl barley, place in a bowl, cover well with cold water and soak for 12 – 24 hours.
    Drain the barley in a sieve (discard water) and leave to drain well for 10 minutes.
    Transfer the soaked barley to a clean, dry cloth, roll up into a sausage, and refrigerate overnight.
    The following day, heat a good, solid, flat, cast-iron skillet (as large as you have), over a medium heat.

    [I actually have a pan specially for this….]

    Take a generous couple of handfuls of the soaked barley, and put them into the heated skillet.
    Stir well with your chosen wooden utensil.

    You’ll notice the following, happening.
    The barley goes from white/opaque to translucent, and pearl-like in colour!
    Keep stirring, to keep the grains from sticking together (or to the pan). Gradually, as they cook, they will turn to white again.
    Keep stirring until they go a nice nutty brown colour. The same colour of hazelnut skins….
    When roasted to your satisfaction (they will flow very loosely around the pan and sound “Gravel-y”) transfer them onto your flat surface, on which you’ve put a clean cloth. Spread them out to cool. (I also alternatively, just pour the roasted barley grains into a large, clean glass bowl, and toss them a few times to cool them...
    Proceed as above with the remaining barley, until it’s all roasted.
    When cold, transfer to a clean jar.

    You can use the barley in its solid state, by putting it into soups, stews and casseroles, about 15 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Because it’s already roasted and cooked, it only needs softening and heating through.
    You can also add it to salads, by soaking it in water for an hour, or even (if you’re daring!) a good quantity of salad dressing. I have, before now, soaked my barley in a mix of water and white wine. It gives a nice flavour, without being intoxicating!!!

    To grind it into tsampa flour, I have found that food whizzers and processors are just not good enough, and will not give nice, fine flour.
    You really do need a spice grinder or electric coffee grinder to make the flour.

    Do you know how to use tsampa....?
  • Thanks so much federica! I'll try this soon since I just bought a bunch of barley :) I don't really know how to use tsampa or make the traditional Tibetan dish. Could you please tell me how to?
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited January 2011
    Tibetan butter tea is an acquired taste. Furthermore, as we cannot possibly obtain dri milk (many people refer to yak milk, which is an error. The Yak, is the male.....!) or butter for that matter, and the tea which Tibetans would normally use, anything we make here would be an approximation anyway.
    But I'm advised the method I use is pretty near the mark. Or as near as it can be.

    take some good strong black tea (there is a brand called gunpowder tea, but I think a good quality strong ordinary black tea would be fine. Either teabags, or loose tea.
    Put either 5 bags, or 2 heaped tablespoons of tea in a pan containing a pint of water.
    Add salt, to season. (you need it on the slightly savoury side, but not over-salty. Time and experience will give you the flavour you prefer!)
    Bring to the boil, and simmer gently for half an hour.
    pass the tea through a sieve, (or remove bags, pressing lightly to expel the tea) and place the liquor back into the pan.
    Discard leaves/bags. (good compost!)
    Add enough full-cream milk to taste. Probably a little bit darker than you normally take it.
    Now add 1 heaped tablespoon of unsalted butter, or preferably, ghee.
    bring back to a rolling simmer, until all the butter melts.
    Now, ideally, you'd have a Tibetan tea churn (Wal-mart has plenty.....)

    (I'm kidding!!)

    But a good electric whisk, or hand blender will do just as well.
    Really whizz the tea until it's frothy.
    In truth, it should taste like a creamy vegetable broth, which if you think about it - is exactly what it is.
    Pour this hot, whipped frothy liquid into a large bowl, or mug. drink as much as you want, but probably leaving about a quarter in the cup, topped with a nice layer of butter. (add a bit more if you want!)
    Add a couple of handfuls of tsampa to the tea, and stir it around until you can make a dough-ball...


    (if you google "Tibetan butter tea", you might find some good sites which give other information on different uses...
  • Thanks! I tried it today.. the butter tea was not my thing.. too buttery lol. I liked the tsampa though, but I feel kind of weird after eating it.. I don't know. Maybe it's hard to digest for me. How does it make you feel?
  • Excellent instructions, thank you Federica. The best kind of tea to use is Pu-ehr, which comes in bricks and can be found in most Chinese grocery stores. As she says, any strong tea will work but traditionally this is what is used.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited January 2011
    Thanks! I tried it today.. the butter tea was not my thing.. too buttery lol. I liked the tsampa though, but I feel kind of weird after eating it.. I don't know. Maybe it's hard to digest for me. How does it make you feel?
    Actually, I find it much easier to digest and to process than ordinary wheat, because it's a healthier grain. Less gluten. And the gluten in barley is of a different composition to that of wheat gluten and not as irritating to those who are gluten intolerant....so, I find it very easy to eat and to digest....

    Maybe you had too much? Too dry?
    It needs to be the consistency of a firm dumpling, that holds together on its own....
    I have to say, I adore the tea, myself.....

    As I live in the uk, I'll have to see about chasing that brand of tea, on-line, karmadorje....Thanks for the tip!

  • I used gun powder.. but maybe will try pu erh (I do have some) if I try this again. I really like barley, but I think the reason my stomach didn't like this was all the butter. Too much fat.. I have weak digestion and need to do a cleanse :) It was a nice cultural experience though.
  • federica, if you can't find any pu-ehr I'll send you some :)
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    Well that's awfully kind of you!
    I have found a website in the UK, but it's very expensive (That's not a gripe, it's just an expensive tea, I get that, it's fine....) but right now, I can't afford the "luxury" of purchasing it, and I definitely don't want you to go to any extra expense for me,truly.
    I have some very good strong Nepalese teas, and some dark Chinese teas in my cupboard, so I'm going to simply make my way through those, then when I run out, I can order some online. or if it's till too expensive, maybe make do....! Thank you so much for the kind offer though!
    I really don't want to put you to that trouble.... :)
  • You might have better luck in a Chinatown near you if there is one proximate. It isn't typically as expensive as other teas unless you are getting a really high grade though the prices have increased in the last ten years or so. Unlike other kinds of tea, Pu-ehr is aged at least a couple of years. The ones you are looking at might be aged longer. Because the milk and butter bind with the tannins there really isn't much benefit in using high grade tea leaf for butter tea.

    Oolong is a good substitute if you can't find it.

    Butter tea is a funny thing. I hated it when I first had it. Then the next time I had it I thought, "That's an awful tea, but it's actually quite a delicious soup." Having a different framing for what I expected it to taste like, I really grew to love it. :-) There is nothing like it for feeling alert and warm during long meditation sessions in the cold.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    Yes, as I said above, through the addition of salt and butter, it becomes more of a vegetable broth, really...rather like a green-leaf vegetable....

    A creamed spinach?

    ....Ok, maybe not, but you know what I mean....:D

    I have a savoury (as opposed to a sweet) tooth, so I love salty flavours.
    I also have the dubious distinction of absolutely being open to trying anything at least once. Really. I mean anything. The only thing I really cannot bring myself to eat are "snotty" (runny, undercooked) eggs, but it's not the flavour, just the impression and look of the damn things.... :zombie: Bleah!!
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    Reposting this thread by request....
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    It's all a little bit time-consuming, but in these days of ready-meals, and rush-rush-rush, it's extremely gratifying to "make your own"....
    And I really do use the un-ground roasted barley grains very extensively...
  • federica said:

    Do you know how to use tsampa....?

    Great tsampa prep instructions, thanks! I love the stuff! :)

    Here's how Mongols eat it:

    Brew up some of your fave tea. They use Central Asian brick tea, but you can use anything: Earl Grey, or various green teas, whatever. Set aside.

    Instead of butter, start with some sour cream in a bowl. Actually, the homemade sour cream in Russia and Mongolia is more like English Double Devonshire cream, but with a slightly sour tang. So you can experiment and see which you prefer: standard store bought sour cream, or Double Devonshire.

    Stir in as much tsampa as you want. Slowly add tea, stirring it into the whole mixture to make the whole mix liquid. Probably about 1/2 sour cream/tsamba and 1/2 tea is about right, or thicker if you want. In thicker form, it's eaten with a spoon, like a breakfast dish.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited September 2012
    I can't get enough of this stuff, ya know.....
    I make myself a good batch at least twice a month......

    If you put fresh sour cream in a clean, dry jar, add a pinch of salt and start shaking it vigorously (!) you'll get 'sour butter' which is almost exactly like Dri butter....
  • @federica after the barley is roasted does it need to be refridgerated? And how long does it keep?
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited September 2012
    Kangaroo said:

    @federica after the barley is roasted does it need to be refridgerated? And how long does it keep?

    The beauty of barley flour is that it keeps forever, and you can keep it in a jar or a cotton sack, like flour used to come in, in the old days. Probably a paper bag would do fine. This may vary, depending on local humidity. I wouldn't recommend a plastic bag, because it's not breathable.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    @Kangaroo, I keep my barley flour in a kilner jar.
    It's never around long enough to go off, or anything. But as Dakini says, through roasting and grinding (providing you keep it dry) the shelf-life is pretty long. Obviously, as with anything, there is a deterioration of 'quality' after some time - but we're talking a couple of years, here!
    Make it in manageable batches.
    And again, the roasted, un~ground grains, I keep in another kilner jar, and use in all kinds of dishes - soups, salads, stews... I even crunch them like nuts, on their own...!
  • cozcoz Explorer
    thank you so much tsampa ideas always looking for vegie ideas
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