When visiting Northeast India, you feel as if you’re visiting a different country. The culture, the food, the language, and the people have their own unique flair. The most fun, however, is tasting and exploring the special local food.
Sikkim is one of the most unique states in the North East. Sikkim is home to a variety of people hailing from across the Tibetan plateau and Himalayan range. Because of its mixing pot of people, you can find a variety of East Asian inspired food in Sikkim.
The people of Sikkim enjoy using a variety of local ingredients to make their special food. Traditionally, the natives of Sikkim relied on root vegetables, ancient grains, and red meats. This is different from Sikkim’s neighboring state to the south, West Bengal, which is rich in rice and fish.
Tourists in Sikkim have ample opportunity to taste all sorts of delicious cuisines. If you are able to score a home-cooked meal from a homestay or a local friend in Sikkim, don’t miss out! Sikkim is bursting with great cafes and restaurants, but nothing beats food from a fresh homemade meal.
Here are the top ten foods you have to try in Sikkim!
The one and only prized food of Sikkim, momos can now be found all over India, but you will only get an authentic tasty plate in Sikkim. This food is commonly eaten for a snack and holiday events alike. It’s a simple dumpling made of all-purpose flour (maida) and filled with cabbage, carrot, onion, ginger, and garlic. There are also chicken, pork, and beef momos for the meat-eaters. Families like giving a healthy twist to this food by making it with wheat flour (atta).
A plate of momo with chutney
This Sikkim food is similar to momo, but instead, the dough has active yeast. This helps it rise and become fluffy and delicious. It is often filled with a variety of vegetables, eggs, and meat. Because there is a decent population of Tibetan people in Sikkim, there are many Chinese style foods available here.
Sikkim winters last an average of 3 months, but if you’re in the higher elevation, it can be cold year-round. In Sikkim, people like to eat a lot of warm foods with soupy broth. Thukpa is a local belly-warming food. It is a fresh noodle soup made with noodles, a variety of lightly cooked vegetables, cilantro, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce.
4. Fox Bread (Sel Roti)
Sikkim doesn’t have too many sweet foods, but fox bread is definitely a fan favorite. It is a local donut type food made from beaten rice, maida, cardamom, cinnamon, sugar, and ghee. It twisted by hand and deep-fried. The process is similar to making jalebi, but the taste is less sweet and more filling. It is usually made during festivals and special occasions in Sikkim.
5. Fried and Filled Tibetan Bread (Phaley)
This delicious Sikkim food again finds roots in Tibetan culture. It's a hearty fried pastry that can be filled with vegetables, chicken, or beef. The size is about the length of your hand, so in and of itself it is a full meal!
6. Buckwheat or Millet Pancake (Phapar/Kodo ko Roti)
This food is truly a Sikkimese staple that is routinely made in homes across the state. For hundreds of years, the people of Sikkim ate mostly root vegetables and ancient grains. Nowadays, people still make this buckwheat pancake and serve it with spicy chutney. It is eaten at any time of the day, but during festivals, you can enjoy it with some local millet beer.
7. Millet Beer (Tongba/Chang)
Sikkim millet beer
This local Sikkimese drink is rated somewhere between a wine and a beer. In Sikkim, it is enjoyed in a tall bamboo cup with a bamboo straw. What makes this drink so delightful is that the fermented millet brews in hot water right within your very cup. Sikkim people like to drink this at night to warm up and relax at the end of the day. It’s also fun to try millet beer made in different places. You will notice that the millet beer from the valley tastes significantly different than that of the high elevation. All millet is locally grown in Sikkim and fermented in people’s own homes. This specialty food of Sikkim is also important for religious ceremonies and social gatherings.
8. Cherry Chilly Chutney (Dale Korsani Achaar)
The touted chilly of Sikkim, the cherry chilly, has a sweet bite to it. It is grown only up in the Himalayas of Sikkim, Darjeeling, and Kalimpong. People in Sikkim like to wage that is a close rival to the King Chilly of Nagaland. Cherry Chilly Chutney is often eaten with most meals by adding a dollop to the side of your rice. Then the chutney is added in bite by bite. Often the chutney is made of chilly, fresh ginger, garlic, and roasted tomato, although there are some different varieties to this food.
9. Fermented Soybean (Kinema)
Sikkim people love making different types of chutney to accompany their food. Fermented soybean is a local food that the people of Sikkim like to mix with chilly, ginger, and garlic. The spicier, the better! When someone is frying it up for dinner, you can smell the distinct smokey flavor from house to house. If you have heard of the food akhuni of Nagaland, it is similar but lighter in flavor.
10. Preserved Mustard Leaf (Gundruk)
Sikkim people are resourceful when it comes to food. They know many delicious as well as medicinal plants that add flavor to their diet. The preserved mustard leaf is often made into a broth soup with tomato, ginger, and garlic. It can also be made into chutney by frying it with chilly and even adding fermented soybean. Gundruk is made in the wintertime when it is harvested in abundance. During monsoon in Sikkim, there are fewer vegetables, so people rely on this food during that time. This is common in Sikkim villages where people grow their own food.
11. Stinging Nettle Soup (Sisnu Ko Jhol)
Stinging nettle has been shown to have enormous health benefits. This Sikkim food dish is high in vitamin B and C. Sikkim people like to cook it into a soup and eat it along with their daily food. It is a great natural medicine and also can improve your skin and hair. It grows during the monsoon season.
12. Fiddlehead Fern Curry (Ningro Ko Sabji)
Fiddleheads are the small buds of ferns. Sikkim has a long monsoon season, so ferns grow abundantly in this climate. Sikkim people like to cook this food just like any other vegetable curry with ginger, garlic, tomato, onion, and turmeric. It has a slightly earthy undertone, but it soaks up curry sauce very nicely. Another way to cook this food is to add it to fried cottage cheese.
Don’t Miss Out on These Famous Sikkim Foods
When planning your trip to Sikkim, make sure you eat as many of these food dishes as you can. Your taste buds will thank you! Many people remark on how healthy and energetic they feel after eating the local food of Sikkim during their travels. Here’s to eating your heart out in the wonderful state of Sikkim!
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