Besides of the Dongzhulin Temple, the Benzilan village might be more attractive for most visiters.
The abundance of fresh produce was what James Hilton described when he talked about the mystical world of Shangri-La, an abundance that the local fruit and vegetable market in Gyalthang displays proudly. Visiting the market is a colorful experience in itself that prepares you well for sampling popular Tibetan dishes and delicacies. Offerings vary according to the season, so everything is completely fresh.
August is the mushroom season and an astonishing variety finds its way from the mountains and meadows to the market alleys: from exquisite matsutake and shiitake mushrooms that command a premium price in Japan to highly sought-after chanterelles and boletes.
Tibetan cuisine is both hearty and oily as during the freezing winter months a little bit of extra fat goes a long way in keeping you warm. Yak appears on every menu, in every shape and form: yak steak, yak cheese, yak yogurt and of course the traditional yak butter tea, a local favorite that must be tried even though it’s not to everybody’s taste.
Being invited to the home of a Tibetan farmer for some yak butter tea, cheese and yogurt is something quite unforgettable. The typical farmhouse is a large wooden structure with space for the animals on the ground floor, the family quarters on the second floor and a loft for storage. While sitting around the open fire in the cozy living hall – yak cheese hanging above in the smoke – imagine the surprise of coming across a huge pot with five compartments, one for boiling water for washing, one for cooking the daily meals, one for preparing cow feed, one for chicken feed and another for pig's grub. As you marvel at the pot, you realize that in Shangri-La man and nature do live in harmony.
Hot pot is another local specialty prepared over a fire that makes the best of Gyalthang’s many blessings. The freshest seasonal vegetables are boiled in a delicious soup with locally picked mountain herbs and various kinds of meats. The meat tastes different, as local farmers let their yaks, cattle, pigs and chicken roam freely in the wild. And what better way to wash the meal down than with some fragrant barley wine that is produced in Gyalthang itself.
Besides Tibetan cooking you will come across Yunnanese cuisine in Shangri-La, adding to the culinary variety. Yunnanese cuisine is essentially a fusion of Chinese regional cooking. It blends the hot, spicy flavors from the Sichuan province in the north with the subtle, rounder tastes of east and southeast China.
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