Eating out at Leh Ladakh

While our 2 week-long trip to Ladakh was very hectic, and given the schedule we were mostly eating lunch at roadside places (dinner was usually at our hotels), we could not resist the temptation to try out some Ladakhi food on the two days we were free to hang around in the capital Leh.  I would have loved to explore the local cuisine a bit more, but time did not permit the same.

Yarkandi Pulav

I had some exposure to Ladakhi food from a food festival about five years ago at ITC Kakatiya Hotel, Hyderabad. Nilza Angmo, who is the owner of the well-known Alchi Kitchen in Alchi (70 km from Leh) was in Hyderabad curating the festival. She introduced the cuisine of Ladakh to us with dishes like Skyu (local handmade pasta in veg sauce),  Chutagi apart from the usual Churpi (delicious Yak cheese), Mok Mok (Ladakhi Momos), and Pakthuk (Soupy lamb broth with veggies and cheese). But more than that she had kindled an interest in the cuisine, which I followed up in this recent visit. It is a pity that we could not visit Alchi this time to try out some more of her food.

Churpi, Skyu, Chutagi & Buckwheat Rolls

Ladakh, the land of passes is one of the northmost states in the country, also the international line of control with China and Balti-Gilgitstan of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. While the mountain passes served as barriers for many intruders into India, they also served as an important part of the Silk Route. Thus the local cuisine has influences from the Uyghur Muslims who used to pass this trading route, Baltis, and Muslims from Central Asia as well as Tibet as Buddhism came here around the second century AD. Thus, Yarkandi Pulav (from Yarkand in China) and Tingmo, both coexist as part of Ladakhi food. Butter, Yak meat, barley are some of the ingredients very common in Ladakhi food.

Pee Shee Soup and Shapta at Tibetan Kitchen

In Leh, we were recommended a place called Tibetan Kitchen. The place is just off Leh market and has both indoor and outdoor seating. It has a large Tibetan and oriental menu, with Ladakhi dishes occupying a couple of pages. Only me and my wife visited this place as others in our team were busy. We tried Mutton Pee-Shee (a cheese-based broth with mutton dumplings) as well as Tingmok (Tibetan steamed bread) and Mutton Shapta. The Shapta is a Tibetan semi-gravy dish where sliced meat is stir-fried with abundant vegetables. The place also has various versions of Thukpa and Bagleb (bread stuffed with meat). The lunch was immensely satisfying, and we looked forward to trying some more Ladakhi food soon.

Namza Dining

My friend and travel organizer, Indranil from “Travel with Neel” had read about Namza Dining, another restaurant centrally located in Leh, which exclusively served Ladakhi food. We reviewed the menu and found it very interesting. It had Yarkandi Pulav, a rice and meat dish recommended by many earlier tourists here. So about twelve of us landed here for lunch so that we could try many items on the menu.

Shapta with Ting Mo

Namza Dining (https://namzadining.com/) was very close to our hotel. We loved the d├ęcor here, both indoors and outdoors. Apart from the usual seating, it also has some traditional Ladakhi seating where you have to sit on a low platform enjoying your meal from a small table kept in front. The restaurant has its own garden behind where its vegetables are grown.

Mok Mok Soup

As explained, their signature dish is Yarkandi Pulao. Yarkand is the homeland of Uyghur Muslims in the current Xinjiang state in China. Their traders used to pass through Leh as part of the ancient Silk Route for trading, and somehow this dish was embraced by the locals. Chunky mutton cubes and rice together are slow-cooked and served with soup. A small Mok Mok is also in the soup. One could notice fried onions and nuts in the dish too. The dish had a bit of fat too to keep the body warm.

Gyuma

Among the other dishes, we all loved was Gyuma, the Ladakhi sheep sausage. Traditionally Gyuma was made from Yak meat. The filling here has ground meat, fat, and even some rice. Absolutely delicious stuff.

Mutton Mokthuk Soup (momos with leafy veggies in mutton broth), and Mutton Shapta with Tingmok (baked Tibetan bread) were the other two dishes we tasted.  The other Ladakhi bread, apart from Tingmo is Khambir, a thick wheat-based flat bread which is very filling.

Loved both the places we dined at in Leh, but if you can do only one, choose Namza.

Butter Tea & Ginger Tea

A talk about Leh food is incomplete without the mention of Ladakhi tea. There is the usual Butter Tea that you get in all places. The tea is slightly salty and the butter keeps you warm. Almost all monastery canteens serve this tea. Apart from this, another one we loved was Ginger Tea, which has fresh thin slices of ginger in the tea itself.


No comments:

Post a Comment