Tag Archives: Losar

Tibetan New Year Cookies or Khapse

A special part of any Tibetan New Year or Losar celebration is the eating of khapse, deep fried Tibetan cookies. This blog post will give you a glimpse of Dolma Ling Nunnery in India and the some of the preparations by the nuns for Losar. In the days leading up to Losar, the Tibetan nuns, like Tibetan lay people all over the world, will be working hard to prepare large batches of these crispy cookies.

making Tibetan khapse

Tibetan Buddhist nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery in northern India making khapse for Tibetan New Year. Photo from the Tibetan Nuns Project 2014.

Khapse (or khapsay) means literally “mouth-eat” and they are a staple of Tibetan New Year’s celebrations everywhere. While these biscuits are made for other celebrations as well, such as weddings and religious events such as the enthronement of a lama, it’s at Tibetan New Year that they are ubiquitous.

nuns making Tibetan khapse

Nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery making khapse for Tibetan New Year 2014

The dough for the khapse is usually made with flour, eggs, butter and sugar. It is then rolled out and made into different shapes and sizes. The most common shape is the small twisted rectangular pieces which are served to guests.

Tibetan khapse made by nuns

Tibetan khapse ready for frying. This shape is made by cutting the dough into a narrow rectangle and then making a slit in the middle. Then one side of the khapse is pulled through.

Larger and more elaborate shapes are made as well, including the so-called Donkey Ears or bhungue amcho (also known as khugo). These are large elongated hollow tubes of crispy pastry that are stacked up on the Losar altar as both a food offering and as a decoration. Strings of dried Tibetan cheese are draped over the top.

Losar khapse

Stacks of a special type of khapse made by the nuns decorate the Losar altar at Dolma Ling Nunnery in northern India. Photo from the Tibetan Nuns Project 2014.

Traditionally, khapse would be deep fried in butter or mustard oil, but in exile the nuns use corn oil. The deep frying give the cookies their distinctive light brown or yellow color.

frying khapse for Tibetan New Year

Inside the nunnery kitchen at Dolma Ling, the nuns fry large batches of khapse in big vats of hot oil.

You can make khapse at home. For a recipe for Tibetan khapse, visit our friends at YoWangdu Tibetan Culture. Happy Losar!


Vegetarian guthuk soup: A recipe for Tibetan New Year

To celebrate Losar or Tibetan New Year, we want to share with you a vegetarian recipe for the very popular Tibetan noodle soup, called guthuk. This special soup is eaten on the night of the 29th day of the 12th month, or the eve of Losar.

We’d like to thank our friends, Lobsang and Yolanda at YoWangdu Experience Tibet (www.yowangdu.com) for sharing this recipe with us. They have many wonderful Tibetan recipes on their website.

Guthuk is the only Tibetan food that is eaten only once a year as part of a ritual of dispelling any negativities of the old year and to make way for an auspicious new one. The base of the soup is actually a common noodle soup called thukpa bhatuk, but at the end of the year, this daily favorite is transformed into a special dish that is also a bit of a game.

Tibetan guthuk soup

Vegetarian guthuk soup. Photo and recipe courtesy of YoWangdu.com

Guthuk gets its name from the Tibetan word gu meaning nine and thuk which refers generally to noodle soups, so guthuk is the soup eaten on the 29th day. The gu part of the name also comes from the fact that the soup traditionally has at least nine ingredients. In this vegetarian version of guthuk, the nine main ingredients are mushrooms, celery, labu (daikon radish), peas, tomato, onion, ginger, garlic, and spinach. A traditional guthuk would include meat (yak or beef) and dried cheese. Continue reading

Video of Losar at a Tibetan Buddhist nunnery

The Tibetan New Year – Losar – is a very special time of year. This year, 2014, the first day of fell on March 2nd which, by the Tibetan calendar, is the first day of the Wood Horse Year of 2141.

Losar Video

Losar-related rituals fall into two distinct parts. First, the nuns like all Tibetans, say goodbye to the old year and let go of all its negative or bad aspects. Part of this involves cleaning one’s home from top to bottom. After that, the “new year” or Losar is welcomed, with prayers and by inviting all good, auspicious things into our homes and our lives.

Here’s a Losar video showing preparations and celebrations at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute near Dharamsala, northern India with photos taken by the nuns themselves. The nunnery is home to over 230 nuns. Enjoy and Happy Losar!


Celebrating Losar at a Buddhist Nunnery

Losar, or Tibetan New Year, falls this year on March 2nd 2014 and is the start of the Wood Horse Year, which is year 2141 in the Tibetan lunar calendar.

Happy Losar card - nuns hanging prayer flags by Olivier Adam

Photo of nuns hanging prayer flags courtesy of Olivier Adam

This year will be the first time in many years that Losar celebrations will take place at Tibetan exile communities and at Dolma Ling Nunnery near Dharamsala, India and other nunneries.

Since 2008 and the unrest in Tibet, many of the Tibetan settlements, monasteries and nunneries in India have not been celebrating Losar. With many Tibetans self-immolating for the cause in Tibet, Tibetans in exile have joined together in prayers, but have not followed traditional Losar celebrations.

Continue reading

Vegetarian Momo Recipe

Tsel Momo or Vegetarian Momos: Steamed Vegetable Dumplings
Our profound thanks to Lobsang and Yolanda at YoWangdu Tibetan Culture for their support of the nuns and for sharing both this recipe and their beautiful photos. The recipe has been edited here for length. If you want to see more of their Tibetan recipes, including meat momos, visit their website at www.yowangdu.com

Tibetan momos or dumplingsTraditionally in Central Tibet, there were sha (meat) momos and eventually vegetable fillings began to appear as well. Typical vegetarian momos (tsel momos) are stuffed with a potato filling, but Lobsang at YoWangdu Tibetan Culture has created his own blend of tofu, bok choy and shiitake mushrooms to make momos that are light and delicious.

For 2 people (Makes about 25 momos)

Dough Ingredients

  • 2 cups white all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup water

If you don’t have time to make them yourself, look for dumpling wrappers, wonton, potsticker, gyoza or shu mai wrappers in many major grocery stores. These will taste a bit different than the kind we make, but they will work.

Filling Ingredients for Vegetarian Momos

  • 1/2 large onion (we use red onion)
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro
  • 1 cup baby bok choy (about 2 clusters) or cabbage
  • 5 ounces super firm tofu
  • 2 stalks green onion
  • 6 largish shiitake mushrooms (you can substitute white mushrooms)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to your taste
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegetable bouillon
  • 1/4 cup of cooking oil (we use Canola)

Prepare the Dough

  • Mix the flour and water very well by hand; knead until you make a smooth, flexible ball of dough (About 5 minutes)
  • Leave your dough in a pot with the lid on, or in a plastic bag, while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. You should not let the dough dry out or it will be hard to work with.

ingredients for veggie momosPrepare the Filling for Vegetarian Momos

  • Chop the onion, ginger, garlic, cilantro, bok choy, tofu, green onions and mushrooms into very small pieces.
  • Heat 1/4 cup of cooking oil in a pan to high and add chopped tofu. Cook on medium high for 2 minutes, until the edges are brown (cooking all water out).
  • Add chopped mushroom and cook another 3-4 minutes. Cool completely (very important) and add to filling mix.

making Tibetan momosMaking the Momo Dough Circles

When your dough and filling are both ready, it is time for the tricky part of making the dumpling shapes.

  • Place the dough on a chopping board and use a rolling pin to roll it out thinly, about 1/8 inch thick. It should not be so thin that you can see through it when you pick it up.
  • Cutting the dough into circles: Turn a small cup or glass upside down and cut out circles about the size of your palm. Pinch the edges of each circle to thin them.

Shaping a Half-Moon Momo

(To do this, you might want to also watch this video showing how the two traditional shapes are made.)

  • Prepare a non-stick surface and a damp cloth or lid to keep the momos you’ve made from drying out while you’re finishing the others (lightly-greased trays of steamer with lid or wax paper and a damp cloth).
  • Hold a dough circle in your left hand, slightly cupping it. Put about a tablespoon of your veggie filling in the center of the dough. Start with a small amount, try to not overfill.
  • Starting on one edge and moving to the other, pinch the two sides of the dough together, creating a curved crescent shape. The bottom side of the momo will stay relatively flat, whereas the pinched edge has folds to allow for the bulk of the filling.  Be sure to close all gaps so that you don’t lose juice while cooking.

making Tibetan momos

Cook Your Momos!

  • Finally, you should boil water in a large steamer. (Tibetans often use a double-decker steamer, to make many momos at one time.)
  • Oil the steamer surface lightly.
  • Once the water is boiling, place the momos a little distance apart in the steamer as they will expand a little bit when they cook.
  • Steam the momos for 10-12 minutes, with the water boiling continuously.
  • Momos are done once the dough is cooked.

cooked Tibetan momosServing

  • Serve the momos right off the stove, with the dipping sauce of your choice. At home, we mix together soy sauce and Patak’s Lime Relish, which we get in Indian stores, or the Asian section of supermarkets. Tibetan hot sauce is also very good.
  • Be careful when you take the first bite of the hot momos since the juice is very, very hot, and can burn you easily.