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Nepalese tongba in its namesake vessel.
Place of originLimbuwan (present-day in Eastern Nepal)
Region or stateNepal, Sikkim, Darjeeling district
Created byLimbu people[1][2]
Main ingredientsmillet, yeast, water etc.

Tongba (Nepali: तोङबा pronounced [toŋba]) is a millet-based alcoholic beverage found in the eastern mountainous region of Nepal and the neighbouring Darjeeling and Sikkim. It is the traditional and indigenous drink of the Limbu, Yakkha, Rai, Sunuwar, Lepcha, Sherpa, and many other ethnic group of eastern Nepal.[3][4] Tongba is culturally and religiously important to the Limbu people. Taplejung is the ultimate destination for drinking Tongba.[5] Offering Tongba is a symbol of respect to a guest among the Limbu people and also an important drink for special occasions and festivals. [6]


Tongba actually is the vessel which holds the fermented millet beverage known as mandokpenaa thee.[7] Mandokpenaa thee is prepared by cooking and fermenting whole grain millet. The cooked millet is cooled and mixed with khesung (which is a source of molds, bacteria and yeast).[8] Then the mass is collected and placed in a woven bamboo basket lined with green leaves or plastic, covered with thick folds of cloth and allowed to remain in a warm place for 1–2 days depending upon the temperature. The sweet mass is then packed tightly into an earthenware pot or plastic jars and the opening is usually sealed off to prevent air from entering. After 7–15 days also depending upon the temperature, the fermentation is complete and the mass is converted to mandokpenaa thee.

The time mandokpenaa thee is left to remain undisturbed in the pot after completion of fermentation leads to its maturation. While it matures, the flavours intensify yet become more mellow. Traditionally, it is stored for about six months.

It is consumed in a unique way: the fermented millet is put in a container, also traditionally called a Tongba, and boiled water is poured in it to the brim. It is then left undisturbed for about five minutes. Once the five minutes has passed it is ready to drink. A fine bamboo straw with a blind end, but perforated on the side to act as a filter, is inserted into the container to suck out the warm water and alcohol from the millet grains. More hot water is added as the tongba becomes dry, and the process is repeated until the alcohol is exhausted.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ P.53 Nepalese Cooking By Lauren Baird, 2011
  2. ^ Page 31 Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya By Stan Armington, Lonely Planet Publications, 1994
  3. ^ Easen, Nick (2004-03-01). "Mountain High - TIME". Archived from the original on October 15, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  4. ^ P.53 Nepalese Cooking By Lauren Baird, 2011
  5. ^
  6. ^ MAHARJAN, UJJWALA (2011-12-16). "Sipping hot Tongba in cold winter - My Republica". Retrieved 2014-08-25.
  7. ^ P.75 Handbook of Plant-Based Fermented Food and Beverage Technology, Second Edition By Y. H. Hui, E. Özgül Evranuz CRC Press, 17 May 2012
  8. ^ Ethnic Fermented Foods and Alcoholic Beverages of Asia, Front Cover By Jyoti Prakash Tamang, Springer, 5 Aug 2016 - Technology & Engineering - 409 pages, P.59