food of sikkim

Food of Sikkim

Author: Tanuja Rai
Date: 2020-03-26

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Sikkim is famous not only for its natural beauty but also for its delicious cuisines. Bordered by Bhutan, Tibet, and Nepal, these neighboring countries have made a major impact on the cuisines of Sikkim. Combining the local influences and the ones from the countries around, Sikkim cuisine is layered with flavours. Soups, dumplings, stews, meats, and a whole lot of vegetables constitute the food of Sikkim.

It's all organic!

Sikkim is known as an organic state, and the locals usually prefer organically grown fruits, vegetables, eggs, and meat produced by local farmers. Therefore, you can mostly see locally sourced ingredients and the many different flavors that wouldn’t otherwise be used in food dishes across India and that makes the food options a delight to savor. You must try out the many local cafes, restaurants, and street stalls to make the best of the many culinary delights offered in this beautiful state or take a guided food tour with TourGenie.

What is the most popular food of Sikkim?

1. Local Flavours

2. Street Food

3. Local beverages

4. Delicacies to take back home

LOCAL FLAVOURS

(1) Thukpa

Thukpa is a famous and healthy local food. It is basically a noodle soup made of mixed vegetables and is of Tibetian origin. You can either opt for vegetable thukpa or egg and meat thukpa, where eggs and meat such as chicken are added. It is loved a lot in Sikkim and one serving is filling, though it’s hard to stop at one. You will get a huge bowl filled with noodles and soup of your choice, either vegetables, potato soup noodles famously known as alu thukpa, or chicken soup thukpa topped with eggs, and they are all topped with chopped onion, coriander leaves, green chillies, finely chopped cucumbers, and carrots. If you want, you may also add hot spicy chutney on top, mix, and enjoy it. This food is available at almost any restaurant and café, as it is as common as momos in Sikkim.

Read: 5 foods I'm positive you shouldn't miss out in Gangtok

Thukpa

Hot thukpa soup of Sikkim

(2) Phagshapa

Phagshapa is a food item where pork fat is the key ingredient. It is a strip of pork fat, which is stewed with dry chillies and radishes. At first, the fat pork strips are cooked separately and then stewed with the radishes. It is quite spicy due to the usage of red chillies. There is no substitute for pork, so there is no alternative for vegetarians.

Denzong culinary tour

(3) Gundruk

Gundruk is a very common food in Sikkim. It is made from mustard leaves, cabbages, or radish leaves. These leaves are washed, dried slightly, and stored in a container, most likely earthen pots, and kept aside for fermentation for some weeks. It is then taken out and dried. It tastes a bit sour but delicious. Gundruk can be made as a soup after mixing with onions, tomatoes, and ginger with spices and some chillies to be served with rice and other dishes. It can also be mixed with chopped onions and other chopped vegetables with chillies to be served as a side dish. It is good for maintaining the metabolism of the body.

(4) Sinki

Sinki is another famous traditional dish that is similar to gundruk. The difference is that it is made out of radish taproots. Radish roots are chopped and put into bamboo and pressed over with straw, which is then covered with vegetation and mud for about a month, and bacteria does the miracle. This can now stay fresh for a year and is ready to be used in stews and soups. Sinki soup is a very famous food. This soup is something one cannot miss at any cost. It can also be used as a pickle and eaten with paranthas and other dishes.

(5) Kinema

Kinema is also a favorite food of the people of Sikkim. It is made of soybeans, which are boiled and fermented to attain a sticky texture. While cooking kinema, the beans emanate a pungent smell. The locals serve kinema with rice. Some vegetarians take it as a substitute for meat. It is super high in proteins. Soybeans, when dried under the sun, give a different taste to the curry and are a very common food for locals in Sikkim.

(6) Bamboo Shoot Curry

Bamboo shoots are basically edible shoots; they are new bamboo culms that come out of the ground. The people of Sikkim love bamboo shoot curry and also like to add bamboo shoots to a variety of dishes to enhance the taste of the dish. They use fermented bamboo for cooking delicious curry, but it is not a mandatory ingredient. Locally, in Sikkim, this bamboo shoot curry is also known as tama curry. Turmeric powder is also added, which gives color as well as removes the bitter taste of the shoots. It tastes best served with rice.


Bamboo shoot curry with rice

(7) Chupi-Ningro Curry

Churpi is the local name for cottage cheese in Sikkim and is loved by all. It can be mixed with many items to make a dish, but the most famous is churpi-ningro curry. The people of Sikkim eat many varieties of wild ferns commonly grown in their backyards, jungles, and gardens. Ningro is the local name for these wild ferns. Churpi-ningro curry is a mix of wild ferns with cottage cheese cooked along with onions, tomatoes, chillies, and many other spices like turmeric powder, chilli powder, and sometimes bamboo shoot. Churpi-ningro curry is common for the people of Dzongu in North Sikkim.

Read: Local food and drinks of Dzongu people

Package: Dzongu tour package

(7) Kodo Ko Roti

The finger millet is known as kodo in Sikkim. The millet is ground to flour and mixed with water and either salt or sugar to make pancakes. This food can be eaten with tomato chutney or other local side dishes. People usually have this as a light lunch or snack in the evening.

(8) Ghorkhey Chutney

One of the most famous delicious foods in Sikkim served as a side dish is ghorkhey chutney. The recipe is really simple but is mouth-watering. It is made with onions, tomatoes, green chillies, and spices. Sometimes cottage cheese is also added.

(9) Nakima

Nakima belongs to the family Liliaceae and is a vegetable with various species of flowering plants found in South Asia from South China to Sumatra Ambon Island. It is cultivated throughout Sikkim and is extensively cultivated in regions with low temperatures. It is bitter in taste, but once you overcome it, it tastes delicious. It can be made as a curry or stored in a bottle as a pickle to be served with rice and rotis.

Read: A bitter-sweet experience called nakima

(10) Wachipa

Wachipa is a typical food in Sikkim belonging to the Kirat Rai community. It is a dish made with rice, minced chicken, and powder made out of burnt chicken feathers. The powder gives a unique bitter taste. Vegetarian wachipa is made by replacing meat with leaves or flowers of a plant called Damlapa, which is also bitter, and dry fruits are added. It is eaten on special occasions. It is believed that consuming this food can cure body aches.

(11) Gya Kho

This is a Tibetan dish adopted by Sikkim and one of the mouth-watering local dishes in Sikkim. It is also known as chimney soup as the soup is served in a bowl that resembles a chimney. It gets cooked under coal with a lot of delectable ingredients in it.

(12) Thenthuk

Thenthuk is a Tibetan dish; a form of noodle soup. It is made of vegetables, meat or mutton, and wheat flour. If you are a vegetarian, you can have vegetable thenthuk. It is basically a soup with either vegetables, meat, or both, where little pieces of dough are added to be cooked along with the stew. People of Sikkim usually have this food as dinner.

Festive Eats

(1) Khapsey

Khapsey is a deep-fried pastry that can be either mildly sweet or salty. It is eaten and made mostly on occasions and also at Tibetan weddings. These are dough-shaped in beautiful different shapes, and sometimes colors are also added to make it look appealing.

Khapsey

Khapsey

(2) Sel Roti

One of the most loved and famous dishes in Sikkim is sel roti. This is among the many recipes Sikkim has adopted from its neighboring countries. Sel roti is a famous dish in Nepal, but it is also not uncommon in Sikkim. It is made from rice flour, which is painstakingly made at home. Rice is washed, soaked in water, and ground to form a good flour. It is mixed with water to form a paste, and sugar, cardamom, and other spices are added according to the choice of the eater. The mixture is dropped into hot oil in a ring shape. You must be a well-practiced person to fry it because though it may look easy to make, it is in fact very difficult. It is usually made on celebratory occasions in a huge amount and served with potato curry locally known as alu dum. It is also available in many restaurants in Sikkim, and you can always get to taste it any time of the year.

Read: Festivals of Sikkim

STREET FOOD

The mixed culture in Sikkim is well reflected in its street food. Influences from Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet are quite evident, which makes it all the more interesting.

(1) Momo

A traditional Tibetan and Chinese comfort food that took us Indians by storm. In a country where there is a countless interpretation of momos, Sikkim is one such state where authentic Tibetan momos are served.

Where to eat:  Food truck at Lhasa Falls (near Tashi Viewpoint) or steps of Tharo Line (M.G. Marg)

Book an activity

ATV   Mountain bike

                         ATV ride in Bulbuley                                                             Mountain biking                                                              

(2) Shyaphaley

This delicious Tibetan-origin snack is heaven on your taste buds. Shyaphaley is basically a Tibetan pie made out of flour dough with fillings such as ground beef, boneless chicken, or vegetables. It is then shaped in semi-circles and deep-fried. Best served with churpi ko achaar (spicy cottage cheese pickle).  

Where to eat: Hungry Jack taxi stand

(3) Aloo Cheuda

Literally translates to potato and beaten rice. Aloo Cheuda is street food in its purest form. Aloo Cheura is basically a potato curry served with fried beaten rice and garnished with green chillies, onions, corn flakes, nimkis, and local Mimi/Mama as requested.

Where to eat: A small shack in Tibet road (ask for Chahcha’s alu cheuda)

(4) Ting Momo with Aloo Dum

These are soft and fluffy steamed buns made from all-purpose flour. These Tibetan buns go well with pork/ beef curries. In Sikkim, Ting momo is usually served with aloo dum (Nepali style potato curry) and spicy momo chutney.

Where to eat: Shop no. 34

(5) Laphing

Hot and refreshing spicy cold jelly noodles served with soy sauce. These super spicy mung bean noodles are either served dry or with soy sauce and topped with chilli, coriander, soybean, and green onion sauce.  

Where to eat: Shop no.34

Have you tried any of the above? Tell us in the comments. 

BOOK  A FOOD TOUR


LOCAL BEVERAGES

From the popular Temi tea of Sikkim to the indigenous local alcoholic beverages, the making of Sikkim’s local drinks is an eye-opening one. The usage of grains like rice and millet and fruit as the main ingredients is what makes Sikkim’s local beverages worth trying atleast once.

Some of them, like Tongba, are influenced by neighboring Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. So let’s dive into the 5 must-have drinks of Sikkim:

(1) Jaand (Tongba)

This too is a millet-based alcoholic beverage but what makes it interesting is how it’s consumed.  Fermented millet is put into a long bamboo vessel (tongba) and hot water is poured over it. After leaving it undisturbed for a few minutes, it is then ready to be consumed with the help of a wooden straw (pipsing), which is perforated at one end to act as a filter. A drink that keeps giving, you can keep adding hot water to it till the warm liquid loses its alcoholic effect.  It is low in alcohol and tastes sour and sweet; the taste of yeast is quite prominent.

Where to try: Nimtho, Bhutia Kitchen

For a wholesome experience, book a food tour 

(2) Chaang 

This is fermented alcoholic drink made from either millet, rice, or barley. It is cloudy and has less alcohol content. It can be drunk both hot and cold and tastes of sweet tartness. 

Where to try: Bhutia Kitchen, canteen at Lhasa Falls

(3) Homemade wines

Homemade wines are very popular, especially when they come in some very unique flavours such as yam, ginger, guava, banana, and rhododendron (the homestays in West Sikkim make some delicious wine. If you’re planning to hike in the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary, try it at Mushroom Homestay or Red Panda Homestay that are very close to the sanctuary; they even teach you how to make it!). Homemade wines are reasonably priced, so carry a bottle or two back home for friends.

Where to try: Wine sampling @ Azing’s Farm. Book a stay


(4) Raksi

This is a clear, distilled alcoholic beverage traditionally made from millet. It’s a strong drink with about 45% alcoholic content. It is said to taste somewhat like Japanese sake. 

Where to try: Homestays

Book a Sikkim Distilleries Tour

(5) Bhati jaar (rice wine)

This is a clear wine made from fermented rice and has a strong taste. The process of making rice wine is simple and uses only rice and yeast.

Where to try: Homestays 

Tasted any of these local alcoholic beverages? What was your experience like? Comment below.

DELICACIES TO TAKE BACK HOME

Wondering what to take back home from Sikkim? We’ve got some wicked suggestions:

(1) Temi tea

Available in 4 flushes (Spring-first flush, summer-second flush, monsoon-third flush, and winter-fourth flush), Temi tea is the finest organic tea of Sikkim. These are easily available in any store. If you want to have a taste before deciding, visit tea stores like Golden Tips and Chai Chun at M.G. Marg.

Book a Temi Tea Factory tour

Book a stay inside Temi Tea Gardens

Places to visit near Temi