When travelling you have a chance to try all sorts of interesting food and drink. Tongba is definitely on my top 10 for tastiest things I’ve put in my mouth since leaving Canada…Tarantula is not.
Tongba is a millet based alcoholic drink found in the eastern mountainous regions of Nepal. The whole-grain millet is cooked and left to ferment with a mixture called Murch (which is basically molds, yeast and bacteria). After proper fermenting, which can be up to 6 months, the millet mixture becomes Jaand.
Once the Jaand has had enough time to fully mature, the bitter tastes mellow and it becomes pleasing and “beer-like” for lack of a better comparison.
The Jaand is then placed in a large (woo hoo!) bamboo cup called a Tongba. Tongba is the more popular name for the drink. The millet mixture fills the cup almost to the brim, then boiling water is added and left to “stew” for 5 minutes. You then drink from a large straw with small holes in the bottom, which prevent you from sucking up the millet grain itself.
The key to good Tongba is patience (Which I didn’t find out until my second cup). After sucking down my first cup, the owner scurried over saying “No,no.no….slowly…”. I tried to explain that I was Canadian….He didn’t understand.
The Tongba is served with a kettle of boiled water so that once you’ve drank your way through the cup you can just refill it and let it sit, extracting all the beery goodness from the millet.
Tongba leaves you with a warm an pleasant feeling. Maybe it was the altitude? And Since it’s meant to be sipped then refilled and sipped again each drink tends to last, making Tongba a very nice evening drink. So nice that we went back for a second evening!
Harsha Lash! (To your health!)