Tsampa is the Tibetan word for roasted barley flour.
To make it, barley is allowed to dry in the sun, then it is roasted, and ground.
Tsampa is also used as the name of a dish made from this roasted barley flour and Yak Butter Tea. The Yak butter Tea is greasy, which helps bind the flour together.
You put tea in your tea bowl, salt it, then add barley flour, and stir and knead it until it forms a dumpling, that you then eat with your hand.
There is an art to making it, so that you don’t end up either with gruel or something too stiff and dry. If you have done it right, your hands should be clean — it shouldn’t stick to your fingers.
It takes a bit of know-how to get the proportion of ingredients right. In fact, usually barley flour is put in the bowl first, then Butter Tea poured on top of it. You drink the tea, refilling it several times, then when you want the dumpling proceed to mix up the flour at the bottom. You need just a thin layer of Butter Tea on top the flour for the right consistency.
You start by mixing with just 1 finger, then use your whole hand as it starts to thicken and bind.
You can eat the dumpling in small pieces, or lift it and eat it as a single piece.
Tibetans thrown pinches of Tsampa (as in just the flour, not the dumplings) to mark important occasions, as we throw rice at weddings.
In Tibetan, the flour is actually called “rtsam pa.” Roasted barley flour is “nas rtsam pa”.