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A true experience of a place is incomplete without a taste of its local cuisine. The local food of Sikkim is an amalgamation of diverse cultures. Nepal and Tibet have both influenced the food culture of Sikkim.
Many of the local food of Sikkim particularly momo and thukpa have garnered immense recognition throughout India but Sikkimese cuisine is much varied and goes well beyond the common names.
An adventurous food trail through the rocky terrains of Sikkim can leave you and your stomach ecstatic. If only, you know the exact local cuisines to ask for.
For your next Home stay at Sikkim, immerse yourself in the lap of nature. Walk a different route and try the local food of Sikkim. Your love for the mountains will be renewed and your taste buds will thank you.
The majestic view of Himalaya drenched in all shades of green, the enigma of the mists playing hide and seek and the smell of pine forests grows an adventure lust for many.
Planning an adventure, calls for a brewing cup of hot tea.
Dollops of freshly churned butter traditionally from Yak mixed liberally to a brewing pot of tea leaves makes a calorie-rich cup of butter cha. As Yak milk is not readily available mostly now cow’s milk is used to make butter tea.
The higher altitude and cold weather is best suited for Butter Tea as it is energy rich. It is a Tibetan beverage and is common in regions of Sikkim.
For the beauty conscious, the cold weather can lead to dry skin and chapped lips. Take a sip of this flavourful beverage and say bye to your chapped lips. A cup of Butter cha will cover up chapped lips and make your skin glow. That is the magic of freshly churned butter of the mountains.
If deep fried food makes your taste buds tickle then Sha Phaley will be right up your alley.
The Golden fried Sha Phaley is a delightful mouth-watering delicacy of Sikkim. The dish finds its origin in Tibet. Local bakeries will have a bounty of these fried items on sell. The Roll House in Gangtok particularly excels in making these fried wonders.
Sha Phaley is a meat dish cooked to perfection, stuffed inside semi circular bread and then deep fried. The crunchy exterior with the soft meat oozing from the inside of the crispy fried bread makes this a must have snack.
Traditionally Sha Phaley comes with ground beef and cabbages inside it. But based on demand variants like mutton or chicken Sha Phaley is also available. For the Vegan, they can opt for cheese and tofu Sha Phaleys.
For those who are pork fanatics, Phagshapa is a must try if you are visiting Sikkim. It is a mix of pork, radish and chilies cooked and simmered in a tangy sauce. The dish is best served with a plate of rice or can be consumed with chapattis as well.
It is essentially a pork dish because the fat of the pork is used to cook the pork meat and vegetables. Very little use of additional oil is used for the dish. A chicken variant may be available for this dish but for an authentic taste of Phagshapa the pork dish showcases the very best of local food of Sikkim.
The cold weather of the mountains with its mists and fog are a perfect combination of broth-based dishes.
Gundruk is one of them. If Phagshapa is tailor-made for the meat lovers, Gundruk is a taste of paradise for the vegans. The dish is typically vegetarian and highlights the lovely vegetables grown on mountain soil.
Gundruk is a staple food of Nepal that Sikkim has made it’s very own. Lots of leaves (conventionally fermented) like spinach leaves, cabbage leaves, radish leaves, and even mustard leaves are used to brew the broth. The dish is high on roughage and therefore is a very healthy option to opt for.
The broth that is cooked slowly, traditionally in an earthen pot, differs from one household to another. Every family has their own recipe of Gundruk. Availability of vegetables and leaves also have a major impact on the dish created.
For a much wider variety of broth-based dishes, the Gaya Kho or chimney soup is a great option. Gaya Kho can be prepared with any kind of meat and vegetables. A fish variant of Gaya Kho is also available through the availability of fish on the rocky terrains of Himalaya is much limited.
Gaya Kho is mostly served on special occasions and is shared by family and friends.
Very similar to Gundruk, Sinki is fermented radish roots that can be used to make a pot of hot broth.
A healthy comfort food Sinki goes through a fermentation process of at least a month. Sinki can also be used as a pickle.
Churpi is fresh cow milk cheese which is used in local households of Sikkim for cooking some lip-smacking dishes. The Churpi soup is one of them.
The slightly sour taste of the cheese enhanced by added masala and simmered with meat and local vegetables in it gives the sublime taste of local mountain life.
Churpi fermented with Niguru or Ningro fern is also a must-try dish for a taste of the authentic food of Sikkim.
Nepal has had a large influence on Sikkim. The sweet ring-shaped Sael Roti is one such example. The doughnut-like Sael Roti is made of rice flour and looks stunning.
For the dish, rice flour is mixed with water and then deep fried in hot oil in such a way that it gives a spiraled look to Sael Roti. The sweet taste of the Sael Roti goes best with potato curry or Kinema(fermented soybean) curry.
The classic Momo and Thukpa, two widely popular dishes are easily available in Sikkim but it is the knowledge of these lesser known dishes like Churpi Cheese and Sinki pickle that can open new avenues for the food lovers, presenting a unique serve rooted to Sikkim’s heritage.
For a true taste of the food of Sikkim, it is always a good idea to try out local restaurants as they cater to local taste. Opting for a homestay at Sikkim also makes it easier to avail of the local food as most of the homestay hosts are apt at preparing dishes indigenous to their culture.
The warm broths and the comforts of the wholesome meals of Sikkim are truly an indication of the culture that it propounds- warm, friendly and welcoming. Unearthing the taste of these delish dishes either in your Homestay at Sikkim or on a local shop will give you the essence of Sikkim- earthy and spiritual; a true blue paradise on a platter.