Celebrating traditional Tibetan yogurt in Lhasa


(Photo: CGTN)

Celebrations of this year's Shoton Festival, literally the "yogurt banquet festival," are underway in Lhasa, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

Besides a myriad of activities that take place during the festival, the highlight is, of course, eating yogurt. To find out how Tibetan yak milk yogurt is made and why so many are eager to have a taste, CGTN's reporters went to a pasture on the outskirts of Lhasa.

A herdsman named Basangciren introduced his family's routine job for making yak milk yogurt.

"Every morning I get up at 6:30 and milk the yaks. Then, I boil the milk and prepare it for making yogurt," he said.

He said that yak milk is the only ingredient used to make traditional Tibetan yogurt. The milk is boiled, cooled and fermented. A process that takes time, patience, and skill. His family members know the exact details of the job.

"Making yogurt has no secrets. It's just important to keep an appropriate temperature. This way, the yogurt will have the best taste. We never add anything else," Basangzhuoga, a senior lady said.

In just five hours, the yak milk transforms into a thick, creamy yogurt that's ready to serve.

The family will send the home-made yogurt to the city of Lhasa and allow more people to enjoy the local treat during the Shoton Festival.

Although yak milk yogurt can be mass-produced, many still insist on the traditional way, like Gesang, a local woman that runs a yogurt shop in Lhasa. To attract younger customers, she adds different flavorings to her yogurt.

"We add some other ingredients, like ice cream, honey, and rose petals. We won't change the yogurt's original taste, but merely add some flavoring to make it more appealing," Gesang said.

During the Shoton Festival, locals will eat yogurt anywhere. In shops, at home, or with family and friends in parks. 

To find out why so many people love yak milk yogurt, one needs to try some in Lhasa's Norbulingka park.

At first, the yogurt is quite sour, but gradually the taste becomes rich and fragrant. One spoonful provides an understanding as to why locals love this yogurt enough to name a festival after it.

And it also attracts tourists. A couple from Germany said that they love the taste of Tibetan yogurt and they want more with sugar.

Yogurt is celebrated extensively during the seven-day festival, and for the Tibetan people is also another link between the past, the present and the future.