Travel Guide

Air Dried Meat in Tibet

Universally, Tibetans are awfully fond of eating meat, mainly meat of yaks and sheep. They don’t like having goat meat for they consider the goat meat injuring people’s kidney. According to statistics, the per capita consumption of meat in Tibet holds the most around China. However, Tibetans eat only meat of cloven hoofed animals and do not eat Perissodactyla animals like horses, donkeys and mules, etc. Moreover, the dog meat is anathema to Tibetans. Abusing a person “the one eating dog meat” would be very serious. The older generation generally doesn’t eat fish, and that’s because this nation believes in Buddhism and avoids killing as taboo. Furthermore, the fish is often considered the embodiment of the dragon or the divinity of water. 

Air dried meat is a very unique kind of food in Tibet. At the end of each year, when the temperature is below zero, the Tibetans cut the yak and sheep into small pieces, hanging in a cool place, and air dry the meat naturally. When it comes to next February or March, the meat will be edible. The air dried meat tastes crisp with a distinctive flavor, leading people to endless aftertastes.

You can find people everywhere in Tibet eating air dried meat. The meat is all made by naturally drying the raw meat. Probably, you will deem eating raw meat scary and unacceptable. As a matter of fact, because of the climate of Tibet, the speed of drying the meat is so fast that won’t make the meat become very tough and hard to chew. At this point, air dried raw meat tastes much better and easier to chew than the cooked meat. Air dried meat has now become a must dish for every tourist traveling to the Potala Palace of Tibet. In the past, only the aristocracy can enjoy the air dried meat, but now, the meat has entering the homes of ordinary people.

In Tibet, people always kill livestock in the early winter, for at this time, yak and sheep are just nice fat and the weather of plateau is conducive to freeze the meat. The main way to butcher yaks is to suffocate them. The purpose of this killing method is to remain the blood in yaks’ body. As for sheep, Tibetans usually entangle its four feet and then pierce its heart with a knife. You can eat meat raw of or air dried or fried or cooked in water, in the way you like. In the face of a piece of yak meat or lamb, eaters pull out a sharp Tibetan knife, pick the most delicious part, and then cut frequently, with the knife tip picking into the mouth. Tibetans who eat raw meat all the year round possess an adept technique, always eating with relish, full of rhythm. Every bit of a large piece of meat with bone may be quickly eaten up, only a skeleton left.

Nowadays, the habit of eating raw meat has been gradually reduced, while eating air dried beef and mutton still gains most popularities. That is because that dried meat can be reserved for years in such cold climate around Tibet. There are mainly two forms of dried eat: one is to preserve the whole piece of meat, and the other is to cut the whole meat into about one-foot-long and one-inch-wide strip of meat hanging out to dry in the cold wind.

The most famous air dried meat is produced along the Yamdrok lakeside, eaten with cool and moist yak butter, dipped in pepper powder will make you unforgettable. Every household along the Yamdrok Lake has a four-walls-surrounded room with only a small scuttle for ventilating specialized in drying meat. During every winter slaughter period which is October in Tibetan calendar meaning November or December in Gregorian calendar, a large number of the drying rooms are put into use. Here, people mainly air dry mutton, in the form of a complete piece of meat or cut into thin strips. Without any other complex procedures, just naturally dry until next January, then the meat is edible. Due to the sheep raised by abundant plants here and slightly salty lake, the air dried meat of course has a faint smell of saline, tasting very good. The dried meat is an excellent food to receive guests and was often enjoyed dedicated to the Tibetan government before. Now, it has been known by one and all and the essential food.

Tibetans are commonly as tall as Europeans, but they consume a very simple diet which did not stunt the Tibetans, instead, enables them grow bulky. Like other specialties of Tibet, the air dried meat also takes on profuse nutrition. Especially, the content of the amino acid is higher than that of any other food, which makes it very effective in increasing muscle and strength. Also, air dried meat bears enough vitamin B6, assisting you with enhancing immunity, promoting protein metabolism and synthesis, and thus contributes to the recovery of the body after intense training. According to nutrient analysis, the air dried meat contains a variety of minerals and amino acids needed by the human body, which enables it not only maintain the sound flavor of the meat but also preserve for a long time without deterioration.