In Tibet, yaks make versatile, essential livestock, and the blood sausage known as gyuma is one of the most resourceful ways to put the animals to use.
In Tibet, bloodletting animals to make food conflicts with Buddhist teachings, which advise against cutting open living creatures for that purpose. Himalayan mountain dwellers, however, have long depended on the yak for survival and, in addition to dairy, yaks can continually provide blood without being killed. Like the Maasai of Kenya, who regularly drink cow blood, some Tibetans rely on their precious livestock for this nutritious, renewable resource. But in order to enjoy the sanguine substance with a clear conscience, herders often acquire blood as a byproduct of bleeding for other purposes. Most reasons for bloodletting center on the yak’s health, ranging from preventing disease to maintaining a healthy weight to preparing the animal’s body for moving to a higher elevation.
Butchers transform the blood into gyuma by mixing it with rice, ground yak meat, and salt, then stuffing everything into a natural (intestine) casing. Pan-frying sliced gyuma imparts a rich and unctuous mouthfeel that almost seems creamy, and the finished product is a glistening, deep purple-black. Cooks often serve the heavy sausage with a simple garnish of chopped onion, herbs, and a few fresh vegetables on the side. Surprisingly, despite being made of a rugged plains animal, there’s no hint of gaminess to the decadent sausage.
Need to Know
Outside of Tibet, some restaurants use beef blood and meat if yak blood is not available.
Where to Try It
This eatery serves up fare from Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan, including yak-blood gyuma and gyuma chili.