Tsampa is ground roasted barley, of Tibetan origin. Roasted barley flour, if you will.

A stand alone meal of tsampa is that of tsampa, Tibetan butter tea, and butter. Take a bowl, pour in a pile of tsampa, then mix tea into it until a dough is created. For flair you may add more butter or dried cheese shavings. (The Tibetan cheese for this is coursely ground. More like dried whey than 'proper' cheese, it is sour on first taste, resolving to sweet as it rehydrates in your mouth.) Break off chunks of this dough (the best will gently roll off evenly-sized balls of the stuff) and pop them in your mouth. You can dip the balls in chili paste if so desired. As you chew on a piece, reflect and continue working your doughball, perhaps relieving stress, perhaps just keeping your hands busy.<\p>

The beauty of tsampa (and why preparing it as above doesn't feel or taste like eating raw bread dough) is that, being pre-cooked, all of the gluten is denatured. In normal barley flour, if you mix it with water, the gluten will start forming long strands, holding the dough together. First it will be sticky, then tough, like kneading bread dough. This makes eating a chewy chore and digestion may be a problem. Precooking the grain makes sure this doesn't happen.<\p>

To make your own tsampa (the base, not the meal), if for some reason your local supermarket doesn't carry it, is quite easy. Take some pearl barley, roast it in a dry skillet until lightly toasted (be careful not to burn it), then grind in a blender/coffee grinder/mortar until a flour-like consistancy is reached.<\p>

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