Barley is all over Tibetan-inhabited landscapes and it has became the staple in Tibet instead of rice. Barley can survive the short growing season, cold winters, and relatively dry summers of Tibet.
According to the Beyond The Great Wall cookbook, They weren’t sure when tsampa was first made, but tsampa is a very inventive and adaptable food. The whole barley grains are roasted in hot sand, and then ground to a fine powder, as fine as flour. Raw flour, like raw grain, is not edible, but because tsampa is made from cooked grain, it needs no further cooking.
Tsampa truthfully has such a wonderful aroma. The Tibetans not only used it in cooking, but also in their tea. What I learned from this cookbook was that, Tibetan’s tea is made with butter and salt, so when you add tsampa in, it’s like an instant bread you can drink. I prepared this to make Tsampa Soup.
- 2 cups barley berries (whole grains), preferably organic
- Place the barley in an 11 to 12-inch heavy skillet (cast iron works very well) and dry-roast over medium-high heat. Stir constantly with a fat-ended spatula or wooden spoon, moving the grains off the hot bottom surface and rotating them from the center to the outside, to ensure an even roast with no scorching. The grains will crackle a little as they expand in the heat, will start to give off a toasted grain aroma and will change color
- Keep on stirring and turning until all the grains have darkened to more than golden, about 10-14 minutes. Test for doneness by trying to bite into one of the grains-it should yield easily. Remove from the heat
- Grind them in the coffee or spice grinder, perhaps you may need to work in batches, and grind to a fine-flour texture
- Let cool completely, then store in a well-sealed wooden or glass container in a cool place. It keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator