Sikkim is fast becoming a popular holiday destination for people across the world. The well-preserved pristine natural settings replete with lush vegetation, snow-covered hillsides, monasteries, and quaint villages have a charm of their own. The local cuisine of Sikkim is a simple, sumptuous and hearty spread characteristic of the way of life here and most suited for the high-altitude weather conditions as well. You will find that the local cuisine is also influenced by the culinary styles of neighboring Tibet and Nepal making the fare an interesting blend of recipes.
Getting to know about the local cuisine of a place, especially a holiday destination such as Sikkim is not only exciting but practical as well. You can short-list the dishes you wish to try so that you don’t miss out on regional specialties, but more importantly, know if the available food suits your preferences/palate and request for the custom menu if needed.
Here are some of the native dishes of the land that figure prominently in the regular meals.
Rice and Lentils
Rice and lentils form the staple diet of the local people. When paired with a meat-based side dish, rice becomes a nutritious and hearty breakfast that powers a day of hard work. In addition to rice, beef, mutton and pork are also widely consumed. You may, of course, opt for your preferred breakfast and have rice for lunch.
This pork delicacy is a native dish consumed with relish. It is a must-taste for travelers who love pork. The side-dishes in Sikkim aren’t usually very spicy. This preparation of pork stewed with chilies and radishes too is no exception. It is usually served with rice.
Most ideal for the cool high-altitude climate, the delicious dish of soupy noodles embellished with an array of vegetables – carrots, bell peppers, cauliflower is a hit with both locals and visitors alike. The non-vegetarian variant of Thukpa is sure to keep meat-lovers satisfied. Egg noodles with vegetables or even pieces of meat in meat broth are both spicy. A hot bowl of Thukpa from a local vendor is bound to keep you full for a few hours.
This vegetarian soup is made from a fermented concoction of local leafy vegetables, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. The recipe borrowed from Nepal may not look very inviting but does taste delicious, especially when consumed hot during the chilly winter seasons. Fermented vegetables are characteristic of Sikkim as they come in handy to prepare nutritious meals during harsh winters. They are also a rich source of fiber that keeps the body active.
Yet another fermented formulation, the Sinki too is a traditional specialty similar to Gundruk. These dishes have been passed on through generations without changes in the ingredients or preparation techniques. Sinki is simply the fermented taproot of radish. Chopped radish filled into hollow bamboo stems is allowed to ferment for about a month before being used in the cuisine. The preserved/cured radish is served as a delicious soup, is used in the preparation of stews or even relished as a pickle.
Pakkun is a delicious curry made from mutton marinated in a spicy paste of onion, ginger, coriander, cumin seeds, garlic, turmeric, salt, and nutmeg powder. Spices are often adjusted to suit the palate! This dish is also served with rice or the local bread.
Dumplings filled with minced meat, vegetables or even plain cheese / Tofu, not only are a favorite local snack but can double up as a hearty meal at the slightest excuse. The pocket of dough stuffed with the filling is cooked in steam from tomato soup /bone stock, imbibing the flavor in the process. The cooked dumplings are then served with the soup and chili sauce.
This snack from Tibet is quite popular in Sikkim as well. These deep fried bread pockets filled with beef /cabbage mix, vegetables, or cheese, are indeed quite tempting. Shaped in the form of a semi-circle, they resemble the traditional Indian sweets, but they are the spicy, crispy variants instead.
Niguru and Churpi
Tender Fiddlehead ferns (Niguru) that abound in high-altitude regions are commonly used in Sikkim’s native cuisine. Cooked along with soft cheese (Churpi) made from cow, goat or even yak milk this dish is a local specialty that cheese lovers and vegetarians must taste.
Sael roti is the local equivalent of doughnuts. It is a sweet bun made by deep frying fermented rice batter, often an integral part of the menu during special events and celebrations. Special ingredients are added to enhance the flavor of this local pretzel.
Kinema is a slimy concoction of naturally fermented soya beans. It has a distinct odor and taste. Kinema is used to prepare side-dishes, soups, or even dips that are usually served with rice or bread.
Hardened Yak cheese or the soft variety is a part of the local cuisine. The cheese cubes can be prepped up with tomatoes, onion, garlic and bell peppers to create a rich and nutritious side-dish for bread/roti/ or even rice.
The local alcohol is a heady drink prepared from fermented grain – particularly millets and rice mixed with yeast. The drink is prepared in a bamboo barrel and sipped using narrow bamboo tubes. Chaang is also quite popular in Tibet and Nepal as well.
Almost every Sikkim Tour Package consists of Fresh food abundant during the spring/summer months making it the best time to visit Sikkim, not only for the pleasant weather and spectacular views of the Kanchendzonga but also to experience the local cuisine.
Local cuisine of Sikkim is a simple, delicious and healthy platter that you can safely indulge in when holidaying here!