Taste of Tibet in Bonn, Germany

Posted by OmarTarakiNiodeFoundation
25 November 2017 | blogpost

Image: Artit Wongpradu/123rf.com

Twenty years ago, the colors and cultures of Tibet became world famous through Brad Pitt’s blockbuster: Seven Years in Tibet. It is a movie about an egocentric Austrian mountaineer who gradually learns selflessness from the young Dalai Lama, Tibetan spiritual leader.

 Image: onweb.org

Not until recently, however, that I had a chance to taste Tibetan cuisine. Alas, not in Lhasa, the beautiful capital city of Tibet Autonomous Region in China, but in Bonn, Germany, the base of 19 United Nations institutions.


The small but cozy Himalayak Restaurant in Bornheimer Str. 74 at the corner of Adolf Str. is a popular dining spot for international visitors. Entering the ethnically decorated establishment you will directly see a large image of the Dalai Lama on one side and the Potala Palace on the other side.

 Image: Sacred Sites/Martin Gray

Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Potala Palace, at an altitude of 3,700 m, is the winter palace of the Dalai Lama since the 7th century, symbolizing Tibetan Buddhism and its central role in the traditional administration of Tibet.

Straight from the venue of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, there were 14 of us ready for dinner hosted by Climate Reality Australia. Himalayak, founded in 2010 by mother and son, Jimba Sangmo and Phuntsok Tsering, has a selection of salads and appetizers, soups and main courses, desserts and pastries as well as some beverages and drinks.

 Image: Himalayak

Tibetan cuisine has distinct characters, influenced by its geographic condition of high altitude and harsh climate, as well as its traditional religious belief and ethnic customs.


Daily diet in Tibet mainly consists of meat, milk and other high protein food to help them fight the cold. They often eat a lot of yak meat and mutton but no horse, dog, or donkey. Yak is a large domesticated wild ox with shaggy hair, humped shoulders, and large horns, used in Tibet as a pack animal and for its milk, meat, and hide. Traditionally Tibetans do not eat fish, considered the incarnation of the God of water.

 Image: Himalayak

Himalayak offers tsampa and po cha, traditional food and beverage consumed several times a day in Tibet. Scho tsampa is traditional Tibetan tsampa (roasted barley flour with butter and cane sugar refined) and yogurt, while tsam tuk is a Tibetan soup made from tsampa with homemade soft cheese cubes and leaf spinach. Po cha or butter tea is made from churning black tea, salt and yak butter.

 Image: David Pimborough/123rf.com

His Holiness the Dalai Lama typically has hot porridge, tsampa, bread with preserves, and tea for his breakfast that starts at 5:30 AM.


As neighboring areas often influence food in one place, in the Himalayak menu we see familiar Indian food items such as pakora (a piece of vegetable or meat, coated in seasoned batter and deep-fried) and samosa (a triangular savory fried pastry, containing spiced vegetables or meat). There are also choices of noodle dishes.

Momo is a popular Tibetan food, a half-moon shaped dumpling filled with ground beef or vegetarian, served with sauce made from fresh tomato, coriander, and chili.

 Image: Himalayak

We weighed the pluses and minuses of having tse momo (steamed dumplings, stuffed with seasonal vegetables and feta cheese, served with fresh tomato-coriander-chili sauce) or tse pale (fried vegetarian dumplings filled with spinach and feta cheese, served with cream cheese and leek sauce). The fried version received the most votes because it sounds more delicious.

Phing Tse

Looking at the main courses menu, I opted for one of the Tibetan specialties, phing tse, a bowl of vegetable glass noodle stew, served with basmati rice and a small salad. Due to Tibet’s geographic condition, most of its food is warming and high in carbohydrate. The phing tse is fresh and unique with a hint of Indonesian flavor. Apparently, in addition to glass noodles and vegetables, phing tse are rich in herbs and spices such as onion, garlic, turmeric, paprika, star anise, and ginger.

 Image: zzvet/123rf.com

Visiting Lhasa is now on my bucket list, as a few hours with good friends at the Himalayak made me want to lean more about Tibetan cultures beyond Brad Pitt’s Seven Years in Tibet.


Text: Amanda Niode. Images: As noted.