SOMERVILLE, Mass.--Tibetan delicacies and political activism go hand-in-hand at Massachusetts' first and only Tibetan restaurant, the House of Tibet Kitchen in Davis Square.
Owned and staffed by Tibetans, the cozy restaurant has a menu displaying Tibetan specialties such astsamthuk(nomad's soup) andkishu changkul(Tibetan apple cider sprinkled with cottage cheese).
Yet, from the page in the menu describing the country to the paintings on the wall, the restaurant also gives patrons a taste of Tibetan history, culture and political challenges.
"The restaurant is for food, but also for people to gather and share their ideas," says co-owner Yeshey Palsang, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1978.
"Food brings a lot of people together--it's our livelihood, and at the same time we can have a base, a meeting place."
The chef whistling to Tibetan music, the steaming mugs of sweet cha served to customers and the smell of fragrant rice cooking give the feeling of visiting a Tibetan friend's home.
And, like a Tibetan friend might do, the owners help to further awareness of Tibetan's political problems.
Along with the menu inset and many paintings, brochures and leaflets describing the Chinese occupation of Tibet and subsequent oppression of the Tibetan people are readily available.
"The cause is on our lips, in our hearts," Palsang says, adding that she tries to spark customers' interest in the issue.
"People who come here, they listen, they're interested. When they come to the restaurant, we get to know each other and share our human interests," she says.
Customers include Tibetans (Palsang estimates that the "close-knit" Boston-area Tibetan community numbers about 250) as well as local residents and college students.
"We get all sorts of customers," she says. "Many long to somehow connect with Tibet."
And the Tibetan connection is, of course, fostered by the food.
Tibetan staples prevalent on the menu include roast barley flour products, tofu, rice and vegetables.
"Tibetans love anything green. We have lots of green," Palsang says, chuckling.
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