Traditional Millet Beverage ‘Tongba’ Returns to Menu of Nepali Restaurant in NYC

With the start of the International Millet Year, a traditional millet beverage known as Tongba has made a comeback in Jackson Heights, New York. Tongba is now available on the menu at Delhi Heights, a Nepalese-run Nepali and Indian restaurant in the area.

According to the restaurant director, Tongba was first introduced in December 2014 but was discontinued due to difficulties in importing millet from Nepal to the US just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, after nearly three years, the restaurant has resumed selling Tongba. The director cited the expensive cost of millet in the US as a major challenge to importing the grain.

Traditionally, Tongba is served in wooden vessels. However, the restaurant now serves it in pots that are easier to clean. Tongba is a type of millet alcoholic beverage that is poured into a wooden vessel and consumed with hot water through a bamboo tube. The restaurant charges $18 for a pot of Tongba that can fill up to three thermoses with hot water.

Tongba is very popular in the high Himalayas and holds cultural significance for various tribes, including the Limbu community in Nepal. The restaurant in New York has obtained a license to sell Tongba as a hot beer.

The United Nations has declared 2023 as the International Millet Year, with the proposal spearheaded by the Government of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership. 72 countries supported the proposal, and the General Assembly declared 2023 as the International Millet Year in March 2021.

India is the largest millet-producing country in the world, with nine varieties of millet being produced annually, totaling approximately 17 million tons. This amount constitutes 20% of the world’s total millet production.

The return of Tongba to the menu in New York is a celebration of the International Millet Year and a chance for locals to enjoy this traditional millet beverage from the high Himalayas.