It was 4 in the evening when I landed at Sangye Tashi’s kitchen on Jogibara Road in McLeodganj. The door was locked with a printout pasted on the door specifying the timings of the cooking class and a menu of momos, hand-made noodles, breads and other Tibetan specialities. With no one in sight I scribbled my name and number on the notepad hanging at the door; that’s how tourists inform Sangye that they’re interested in taking up a class. But if you’re not comfortable with the idea, you’ll find him playing carom just across the street. Within a couple of minutes, I saw the cheery chef walking jauntily towards me. I booked a Tibetan bread baking class with him for the next day and set out to explore McLeodganj further.
Next day, I was at Sangye’s door not realizing that I was about to learn not just Tibetan breads but also the simplest life lessons from a 47 year old Tibetan chef. The kitchen is simple with just a gas stove, few pots and pans, a shelf full of ingredients and cooking counter. His Holiness The Dalai Lama smiles down at us from the framed picture on the wall; a place of pride at all the Tibetan households, cafes, restaurants and shops. There’re no flashy pots and pans or high end baking equipment at this kitchen, but Sangye’s bright smile and enthusiasm makes up for it. In a two hour class, we’re learning three breads – whole wheat, steamed tingmo, bhalek – and deep-fried Tibetan cookies called kaptse.