Once upon a time, I lived next door to the Dalai Lama. I was studying abroad, and a research project led me to Dharamsala, a Tibetan enclave in Northern India. I rented a house with a few other students. When we arrived, we were shocked to see that the Dalai Lama’s palace was right next door.
Despite being neighbors, I saw him only once. He waved from his car.
Although I still chuckle at this brush with spiritual fame, the real gem of my time in Dharamsala was the food. Each day there, I discovered some new and delicious Tibetan delicacy. I devoured endless street dumplings, rich stews, and pillowy steamed breads.
Tibetan food is mountain food: cozy, warm, and comforting. You instantly feel better when you eat it. It’s also fairly easy to make.
Tibetan stovetop bread is a particular favorite of mine. It has all the best qualities of yeast breads—crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside—but doesn’t use yeast or an oven. With just a stovetop, you can have this bread on the table in half an hour.
In college, I made this bread almost weekly in my dorm room kitchen. That should speak volumes about how easy it is to make! But I’ve also served it at dinner parties, because it looks and tastes impressive.
Tibetan stovetop bread goes wonderful with soup, salad, or dips (like hummus). But my personal favorite is dipping it in honey while it’s still warm from the pan. Try it—you won’t regret it!
This is also the perfect bread to make for your yeast-sensitive or allergic friends. I imagine it would make a great yeast-free pizza base.
Tibetan Stovetop Bread (Balep Korkun)
If you want all the best qualities of a baguette in a fraction of the time, this bread is for you. Tibetan bread is crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and makes a great companion to soups and stews.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup water
- 1 T olive oil
- 1-2 T water
Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 1 cup of water and stir until a wet dough forms. It should stick to itself when stirred, but still be slightly runny.
Add the olive oil to a medium-sized skillet (I prefer cast iron, but any nonstick pan will work). The skillet should remain cold until the dough is added. Rotate the pan a bit to swirl the oil around. You want it to cover most of the bottom of the pan.
Pour the dough into the center of the pan and spread it out slightly with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle water around the edge of the dough. You want a little ring of water around the whole thing (about 1T for an 8-inch pan, and 2T for a 12-inch). This will steam the bread, giving it that fluffy center.
Cover the pan with a lid. Place over medium-high heat. Cook for 10 minutes. Resist the temptation to check the bread during this time. You don't want to let any steam out.
Carefully flip the bread with a spatula. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Cut into wedges and serve.
• I haven't made this bread gluten-free, but I would suggest trying 1 cup white rice flour, 1/2 cup tapioca flour, and 1/2 T xanthan gum in place of all-purpose flour. I use this mix for my gluten-free French bread, and it works wonderfully.
• You can also make this bread in pancake-sized individual portions. Simply reduce the cook time to about 5 minutes on each side.
Recipe adapted from La Fuji Mama
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Photos: © Elizabeth Steere