Ladakh cuisine is one of India’s least-known regional fares. It is a general misconception that Momo and Thukpa are the only food available here. there’s Thenthuk (noodle soup with veggies and meat) and Tingmo (steamed bread with or without filling) are some other food variations you can try, these are Tibetian dishes that gained more popularity in India after
Tibetan exiles settled in places like Delhi, Dharamsala, Darjeeling, Sikkim, and Bylakuppe in the south.
So what exactly is Ladakh hotels offer? On our off-road expedition ‘Zanskar & Beyond’ with Wander Beyond Boundaries, the traditional homestays were a revelation.
1. Make a trip to the Land of golden apricots
Khaltsi is the largest market for apricots that come from the Btalik area. Ladakh is a high-altitude, cold desert with little vegetation, everyone keeps a garden to supplement their diet with fresh greens, vegetables, and fruit.
When we arrived, our hosts served an unusual buttermilk curry with greens called Gantursh with Pappa/Paba for dinner, in addition to a regular spread (steamed barley balls). Barley is roasted into flour called Tsampa or Sattu, which is commonly mixed with butter tea, steamed into dumplings, or made into soups in Ladakh.
Steamed Tsampa is an acquired taste with a strange consistency of soggy cardboard. It was made palatable by the accompanying chilli chutney or, in our case, the tart buttermilk curry.
2.Devour Chhurpi and Chhang
Chhurpi, in spite of being tasteless, is famous Ladakhi Yak cheese that comes close to matching Tsampa’s blandness. it’s frequently allowed to ferment until it takes on a tangy, bilious flavour.
It’s wrapped in jute, pressed hard to rid moisture, cubed, and smoked over an open fire. The hard, dehydrated chhurpi feels like a pebble in the mouth, remaining in the mouth for hours and releasing its juices sparingly. However, because it is high in protein, it provides sustenance in this harsh environment.
Barley is also fermented to make Chhang (beer). The rarer tipple gun Chhang from fermented green grapes is one we tried. A tour in the village through apricot orchards had us gorging on them straight out of trees.
Fresh apricots, sundried apricots, stewed apricots, and Chemush Compote are all popular ways to eat apricots. The ones that are past their prime are fed to livestock.
Even a seed or apricot stone can be used to make Giri, a tiny almond-like nut. Tapu is made from ground apricot seeds combined with steamed flour nuggets.
3. Dig into Dastuk
After leaving Biama, then continued on to Zanskar via Kargil and Drass. Our highest overnight stop at 13,000 feet, where we ate Skyu (dumpling soup), potato with greens with rice for dinner, and delicious Dastuk for breakfast.
Dastuk is Ladakhi comfort food is a rustic porridge of rice, yak milk and butter, salt, pepper, wild greens, and capers that are best consumed on cold winter mornings.
4. Mok-Moks or momos
The local Zanskari meal of Tchupsay (local bow-tie pasta stew-like Chutagi), Skyu, and the most divine Mok-Moks (or momos) stuffed with mutton, chicken, spinach, and cheese at Changtang Restaurant in Padum, Zanskar’s district headquarters.
Soupy dishes fortified with meat, vegetables, homemade pasta, and dumplings provide much-needed comfort and nourishment in colder climates, and can also be used as hearty one-pot meals.
our hostess churned out everything from parathas to veg momos and flavorful mutton curry with the welcome addition of turnip, perfect with rice.
5. Ladakhi cuisine at Alchi Kitchen
Chef Nilza Wangmo is one of Ladakh’s first celebrity chefs, bringing traditional Ladakhi cuisine to the forefront with modern aesthetics. Before opening a branch in Leh’s Old Town, she established Alchi Kitchen in her village.
Old Town’s streets near Gurudwara Datun Sahib are lined with bakers, offering a variety of bread to accompany tea or salty Gur-Gur Chai (yak butter tea).
6. Namza Dining
‘Namza’ literally means costume in Ladakhi and is attached to the lovely Namza Couture run by designers Padma Yangchen and Jigmet Diskit. Their restaurant pays homage to a long-forgotten tradition of serving a hearty meal to tired Silk Route travellers.
Set near the main market, the tiny cafe has a snug indoor section as well as a large outdoor table overlooking a kitchen garden. From Za Thuk (nettle soup) to Gyathuk (spicy thick noodle soup), Gyuma (meat sausage), Kisir (buckwheat pancake) with walnut sauce, Chutagi to Khambir (Ladakhi bread) with mutton curry, and much more on the menu.
Lastly, Yarkandi Pulao, comes with two Mok-Moks and clear soup and topped with fried onions and dry fruits. And what dessert would be complete without apricots?
7. Sample local food at The Grand Dragon Ladakh
Zasgyath at The Grand Dragon Ladakh is another dining option for delectable local cuisine, with stunning views of the Stok Kangri range.
A sit-down dinner to sample special items like Timstuk (wheat pasta soup with black gram), Nang (Ladakhi sausage), Shapta (meat curry), Phingsha (glass noodles), Taint (Ladakhi saag), and Tingmo (Tibetan steamed buns). Jigmat Couture’s Jigmat Norbu and Jigmat Wangmo run an exclusive textile museum studio and curate signature dining experiences on request at their adjoining home.
8. Luxury dining at Syah
Nothing could match the fine dining experience in Leh that rivalled the best in gastronomic hotspots like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore. Treat yourselves to an exotic 8-course menu at Syah as a way to end our Zanskar expedition.
The farm-to-table restaurant is run by hotelier Rigzen Namgyal and helmed by Chef Pankaj Sharma at Ladakh Sarai in Saboo village, 15 minutes from Leh. The restaurant, named after the Sia or Syah (wild rose) flower that gives Siachen its name, serves Ladakh-inspired flavours with top-notch plating, international finesse, and texture pairings.
A salad with foraged chik weed, wild marjoram, and dandelion served as the first course, followed by stuffed lamb mince Timok with grape leaf tempura as the second course.