Lobsang Wangdu is the chief chef in our house, no doubt about it. I (Yolanda) am both ill equipped and un-inclined to cook, and I’m usually happy to chop veggies and wash up. But I do have one yummy dish that I love to make – a date-sweetened, whole-wheat version of the banana bread in The New Laurel’s Kitchen.
It turns out that Tibetans tend to like this banana bread too. The light sweetness seems to satisfy our Tibetan friends, who don’t care much major sugar.
One friend in particular, another Lobsang, really likes my bread. I didn’t really know how much he liked it, though, until he asked me to cook it for His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Cooking for His Holiness
Our friend Lobsang (not YoWangdu’s Lobsang Wangdu) happens to have the great honor of being the dedicated cook for His Holiness when he is visiting the San Francisco Bay Area. I don’t know how this came to be, but for many years, our friend has been called on to be His Holiness’ private chef when he is in town.
When His Holiness comes here, this Lobsang takes off work and wakes up pre-pre dawn to prepare His Holiness’ meals for the day. For a Tibetan, or for anyone really, this is such a tremendous exhilarating honor and at the same time a massive, daunting responsibility.
Even though His Holiness prefers more and more simple fare, says our friend Lobsang, he thought he might like the banana bread. So it happened that Lobsang Wangdu and I woke up at 2 or 3a one morning some years ago, to nervously bake up a couple of loaves of banana bread for His Holiness.
After making literally hundreds of great banana breads, the first batch we made that morning, wouldn’t you know it, did not go well. It was dry, and we were super sad about that, but there was no time to make another batch and we hussled it out to our friend Lobsang’s car when he dropped by on his way to where His Holiness was staying that day. Total failure. His Holiness saw no banana bread that day,.
But Lobsang gave us another chance, and the next morning, we made two beautiful loaves. This time, Lobsang served them to His Holiness as part of his breakfast and then again for tea. This was, without doubt, the shining pinnacle of my cooking career :-)
Lobsang Wangdu’s own high point as a chef came a few years later, in 2013, when our friend Lobsang asked him to make his Amdo bread for His Holiness’ breakfast. (This was a much great honor than having his hot sauce featured in the New York Times!)
Scroll down a bit on this article to go directly to the banana bread recipe.
What Does His Holiness Eat?
Here are the typical meals that our friend serves His Holiness when he’s in San Francisco. The meals are arranged as a number of small plates each with a different item:
- cornflakes (HH likes the regular kind, don’t you just love that?)
- fruit, like papaya (His Holiness favorite), bananas, or blueberries
- whole wheat toast with butter
- a few pieces of mozarella cheese
- chai (Indian style sweet milk tea)
- on that day, banana bread :-)
- momo’s or thentuk (Tibetan “pull” noodle soup)
- a little rice
- some veggies, like bok choy, broccoli or green beans
- Something sweet like cheesecake or, on that day, banana bread :-)
Lobsang makes breakfast every morning according to what he thinks HH might like, but then His Holiness tells his attendant what he wants for lunch each day, usually thenthuk or momo’s. There’s no dinner, since His Holiness follows Buddhist vinaya rules.
YoWangdu’s Banana Bread Recipe
- 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
- 3 very ripe bananas (4 if bananas are small), mashed
- 1/3 cup oil (we use avocado oil, and put a little extra if the bananas are not super ripe)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- a splash of vanilla or almond extract
- 3-4 large dates, chopped
- a handful of pecans or other nuts, roughly broken up or chopped
Preparing the Bread
- Heat oven to 375℉
- Mix up the dry ingredients and the chopped nuts in a mixing bowl.
- Mash the bananas then mix in the oil, dates and vanilla extract.
- Add the dry ingredients in with the banana mixture and stir well.
- Put the dough into a well-oiled 4″ x 8″ loaf pan (a normal size).
- Bake for 45 minutes.
- Let the bread cool a little when it comes out of the oven, then you can turn it out of the pan.
- Cut and eat while it’s warm fabulousness!
Makes 1 loaf, but we usually double this to make two, and slice and freeze the extra, then heat the slices for 20 or 30 seconds in the microwave for a nice dessert :-)