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Lomba special: The Haap hoentoe

Lomba: The Haa valley will not sleep. It will be noisy as groups of boys wander around the village homes with a long stick and a basket hanging on one end.

As they near a home they will hold the stick out shouting 'lo ley lo ley' until the owners come out and place a hoentoe in the basket for each and everyone in the group.

The people of Haa and Paro valleys celebrate lomba, their traditional new year, today coinciding with the 29th day of the 10th month of the Bhutanese calendar. For Haaps, the hoentoe, a popular buckwheat dumpling is an important part of the celebrations.

The steamed momo-like dumpling is a mixture of dried spinach, turnip, and chilli prepared in fermented cheese and wrapped in a dough made of buckwheat flour. Its preparation, characterised by a distinct aroma, begins the day before the lomba.

Yesterday Yeshi Dema, who works in Thimphu, took a day’s leave to help her mother make hoentoe."It is important for me to keep our tradition alive," Yeshey Dema said. She and her family spent six hours preparing 700 pieces of hoentoe to be offered to young boys who will come around their home, friends and office colleagues in the capital.

Hoentoe was traditionally offered to the nobility as a gesture of respect and goodwill.

The big local festival is considered to usher in New Year locally and hoentoe is the menu. This happy occasion is also a kind of auspicious omen which should stay in the family for another year," Karma Zangmo from Haa said.

Many Haaps make it a point to be home to celebrate lomba. This year Tobgay, a schoolteacher, couldn’t make it because he is busy preparing the academic results.

"It has been more than 15 years since I have outgrew the age group when I used to go around with other boys with a stick and a basket," Tobgay said. "But the memories come back afresh each year."

Today, hoentoe is also cooked during special occasions to enrich the variety in the Bhutanese cuisine.

This article was contributed by Rinzin Wangchuk, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper, 2012
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