‘When we think of Food of Ladakh all that comes to our mind is Momos. Momos and nothing else. However, Ladakh is known for its delicacies and contains many other foodstuffs other than momos. Ladakh food has influences from Tibetan, Nepalese and Kashmiri food. Over time, these forces have grown to produce foodstuffs of their kind, their taste. The cuisine focuses a lot on soup, bread, and brew. Moreover, interestingly, it is very much made keeping in mind the weather conditions of the place. Ladakhi people are self-sufficient regarding the food they grow, and more often their food item contains vegetables that are produced in Ladakh. Spices, dry fruit, barley, and bread are part and parcel of Ladakhi cuisine. Here we introduce to you 26 such food in Ladakh region that is a must try.
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Pronounced as Teemo, Tingmo is a vegetarian dish that could be consumed at Breakfast, Lunch, Brunch or Dinner (basically any time of the day) is one must try food of Ladakh. It is nothing, but basically, a flavored vegetable stew that could be eaten both as a snack or a meal. The essential ingredients that go into the making of the dish are vegetables, and it is served along with fermented bread pieces. Though primarily it is a vegetarian dish, a non-vegetarian alternative of this could also be made. The vegetable stew is available in three primary variants- spicy, sweet and sour. The bread, made of white flour is very consistent and varies tremendously from the mainland roti or Chapathi or Pav.
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Saag is a vegetarian dish made of Spinach. It is quite a simple dish yet mouth-watering one. It contains in it spinach along with red chilies, garlic, cloves and is cooked in mustard oil. It is served along with rice or plain roti. It is a semi-dry preparation. Hence the trick lies in not letting the water evaporate. It is an indivisible food in Ladakh households. Saag also has its origins in Kashmir.
Why is it that Butter Tea becomes a must try for tourists visiting Leh Ladakh? Well, because you will not be able to get it anywhere else. Butter tea is pinkish in color and has a unique aroma and tang to it. Well unlike the usual tea, which is either sweet or bitter, this tea has a salty flavor to it. Curious to know what goes into the Tea? Well, nothing much- Tea leaves, Salt, water, and butter. The tea leaves are boiled in water for half a day, and fresh yak butter is added to it along with the required amount of salt which gives out a pinkish tea. The butter is churned using a wooden equipment. It is better to try butter tea from the natives of Ladakh than trying it in a restaurant. The drink is quite popular among the Ladakhis as it aids one to overcome altitude sickness and also protects the lips from the extremely harsh weather.
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Another Kashmiri, yet Ladakhi dish, Tabak Maaz is fried lamb ribs. It is primarily a Persian flavored dish with many spices used in its preparation. The marinated ribs are kept overnight so that it unstiffens and is then cooked until it becomes soft. Milk and saffron are added to it making it even tastier. It is often served as a starter. The texture of the meat shall be crispy. The spices used are aniseed, turmeric, and asafoetida, cloves and cinnamon powder. The ribs after proper margination are cooked until dry and are then deep fried in ghee. Yummy, right?
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The most popular and much-loved food in the Ladakhi region, Thukpa is a variant of noodles recipe made and consumed primarily by Tibetans. It is usually a clear soup made of vegetables and in which noodles are present. However, it could be made of clear chicken soup too. The flavor is spicy and is served hot. Thus it becomes the perfect food for the cold weather. It is often said that the meaning of ‘Thuk’ is the heart and the dish is named so, for it is heart-warming. Thukpa is usually taken as dinner. The recipe is not just famous in Ladakh, but it is a favorite dish among people of Nepal, Darjeeling, and Himachal. You can find it in every small food join at Ladakh.
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Well, surprised to see momos in this list? It is true that momos are now available everywhere. Any Chinese or Tibetan restaurant for that matter has Momos in their menu card. However, the momos you get from Leh Ladakh is different; it is one of a kind. For those who do not know what momo is, it is a kind of steamed bun. It can be made with different fillings- Pork, chicken, mutton, beef or vegetables. Ladakhi momos are made with the spices from the Himalayas, along with white flour, and water dough, and is served with Thukpa more often. You can get two variants of moms- the steamed one and the fried one. The utensil in which momos are made is called a much too.
Very similar to Thukpa, Thenktuk is a variant of it. Along with noodles here you get fragments of flour dough in the soup. The soup also could be different as in it is less spicy compared to Thukpa. The veggies that go into the soup are onion, tomatoes, ginger garlic, radish potato spinach, and cilantro. “Then” could be translated as “pull” and “thuk” means noodles. Hence this is a pullout noodle soup. This food also has its origin in Tibet and then it spread across the Himalayan valleys. The dough is the crucial part of this dish. The mixture will be required to stay for fifteen to twenty minutes in the soup so that it becomes flexible enough to pull. Yak meat is also often used in Thenktuk.
Yakhni is a Kashmiri dish which was introduced by the Moghuls in India. It is a problematic preparation using many spices and is often served as a side dish to pulao. Yakhni has two significant constituents other than meat which is yogurt and saffron. Saffron is added to the color and yogurt for the texture. Yakhni is also prepared in other parts of the world like Turkey and Greece. However, the Kashmiri version of it, unlike the others do not, use tomatoes. The proper Yakhni is made with lamb meat. Now various variations including Paneer Yakhni is being tried out.
Mokthuk is also a Tibetan dish. Another variant of Thukpa, It is also a variety of soup. Then how come it differ? Well, generally when you order Thukpa it comes with veggie soup, with chicken, mutton or noodles. In this dish, you get momos along with the soup. If you are an ardent fan of momos, you will for sure want to try this recipe. Mushrooms and Yak meat could also be added to Mokthuk. You can have both veg and nonveg momos in the soup, and the price is quite affordable. It could be eaten for Lunch or dinner. Well, what could be even better in this cold weather other than piping hot soup with moms in it?
Qahwa is quite popular in Kashmiri region as well as in Leh Ladakh. Qahwa is mild tea along with cinnamon and saffron. Cloves and dry fruits are also used in it. It keeps the body warm. Qahwa has its origins in Afghanistan. It is a particular variant of Green tea. Green tea leaves are boiled in water along with saffron, cinnamon, cardamom cloves and dry fruit. Rose petals can also be added to enhance the aroma. Instead of sugar, honey is preferred. Samovar is the traditional kettle in which Qahwa is prepared in. Qahwa also has a lot of medicinal qualities- it has anti-inflammatory action, it lowers blood pressure and also protects the human body against the risk of growing cancer cells. Make sure you try this wonder drink when you visit Leh.
The north Indian Kulcha is a variant of naan which is very soft. Unlike this, the Ladakhi Kulcha is a hard bun that is often served along with Qahwa or Butter tea. It is an alternative to biscuit and is taken as an evening snack. It is round in shape and has a salty flavor to it. “The bread makers lane” as France Lecrec, the world-famous photographer names it, is a street in Leh Ladakh region where you can see an array of shops selling Kulchas. Kulchas are prepared in tandoors. Ghee and wheat flour are the primary ingredients in with baking powder and yeast. Kulcha has its roots in Tashkent, and it is believed that it was one of the favorite dishes of Timor.
Skieu is a traditional dish of Ladakh. It is made of wheat flour and water and It could be eaten along with meat or some vegetables. It is a daily day dish for people of Ladakh. The wheat flour is kneaded into thumb-sized balls and is added to vegetable or meat stew. Momos could be attached to it as well. Turnip, carrots, and potatoes are the herbs used, and the dish helps to keep the body warm.
Sea Buckthorn Juice
Sea buckthorn is popularly called as the Leh berries. The berry has a high content of Omega 3 fatty acid and is quite tasty. Sea buckthorn has an interesting story to it. Till 1995 it was used for fencing only after which it was started to be used as a fruit. The fruit is also used to make Jam. It is a must try as sea buckthorn is not seen anywhere else in India.
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A lip-smacking dish of Persian origins, and one of the signature recipes of Kashmir, Rogan josh is also something to look out for a while in Leh. Rogan means ghee and Josh mean stew. Hence the dish means stewed in ghee. It is one of the chief constituents of wazwan the Kashmir multi-cuisine meal. The main ingredient of this recipe is the meat of lamb. The lamb is cooked in a gravy made of onion, garlic, yogurt, garlic, ginger, and spices. The color of the stew would be red which it acquires from Kashmiri Chillies. Like lamb, beef and Goat variants of this dish is also available.
This dish is made in a porcelain pot wherein miller is fermented with the help of yeast. Hot water is then added to it until the strength of miller is lost. It is the local brew of Leh Ladakh region. It is intoxicating, however at mild levels and is served from a brass kettle. Chang is made of wooden drums called zems. The local beer after preparation is first tasted by the oldest lady and is given the certificate of good or bad. Distilled chang is called as arak.
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This is the traditional bread that is again served as a snack with Qahwa or butter tea. It has a pan shape and is slightly thicker than the usual bread. However, it is crispy in texture. It is usually taken along with fruit jam, which makes it tastier. Butter and egg are the other options. It could also be used as a side dish to all kinds of soup available at the region.
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Cholak is a dish consisting of 3 other constituents- Tsampa, Chang, and buttermilk. Tsampa is a staple food of the Ladakhis that is made with roasted grain, saltwater, and barley. It served along with the local beer Chang or buttermilk is called Cholak.
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Gushtaba is minced mutton prepared in Curd. It contains in its meatballs as it has its origins in Kashmir. It is hot and spicy owing it to the ingredients – dry ginger, fennel, red chilies, mustard oil, and curd. So Gushtaba is often referred to like the dish of the kings. To refuse Gushtaba is considered as an act of insult towards the host.
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Tangdur is buttermilk that contains in it fresh vegetables and is often consumed as a side dish to Paba. The ratio of buttermilk to plants depends on a personal choice. The various vegetables used are spinach, lettuce. Cabbage, leaves of sugar beet, and chrysanthemum leaves.
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Paba mentioned earlier, is a staple food of the Ladakhis. The primary ingredients of this dish are Peas and Wheat. The dough for the recipe contains in it wheat, barley, buckwheat, peas and Ladakhi black beans. Paba flour is termed Yotches. Traditionally, the pot in which Paba is cooked is called as Doltok.
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Holkur is a kind of biscuit. These are made at home in Ladakh region. It is prepared with multigrain, nuts and sugar and is often served to the tourists visiting the place. It could be taken as a snack along with Butter tea or Qahwa. It is also accepted as breakfast at times.
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A rice pudding of Iranian origins, Phirni has boiled rice, vermicelli, milk, and sugar. To add flavor to the dish are, cardamom, raisins, saffron, cashews, and pistachios. It is served as a dessert. It could be considered as a Ladakhian alternative to the kheer.
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Chhurpi is a kind of cheese that is prepared from the milk of Yak. Chhurpi is available in any shop in the Leh Ladakh region. It is used in the butter chai and many other delicacies. There are two variants for this dish – the hard one and a soft one. The soft one is usually taken as a side dish with rice while the soft one could be chewed like betel nut. Other than this Chhurpi is also used as a filling for Momos, or it is ground to make chutney along with tomato and chilies. It is made from buttermilk. Buttermilk is boiled continuously, and the substantial remnant from the boiling is made into cheese by draining out the excess of water. The product resembles Italian ricotta.
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It is a refined version of the Kashmiri pulao, but equally tasty. It is prepared with rice, mutton stock, and spices. After cooking it is layered with onions which are caramelized, along with caramelized nuts and carrot that adds to its flavor. It is not available in shops, however, is part and parcel of Ladakhi households.
Tsamik is a kind of sauce prepared from mint and coriander leaves, along with radish and onion. All of it is ground together. To this mixture, salt and chili powder are added along with curd or buttermilk resulting in a thick batter. Tsamik is used as a dip for Paba.