Known for its mystical monasteries, unforgettable views of the Kanchenjunga mountain range, its princesses and chogyals and Himalayan people estranged from modern life, Sikkim possess an air of myth and magic. And towering over it all is its food culture, which has so far remained quite a mystery for the rest of the country. But scratch the surface and you will realize that Sikkim brims with rich culinary offerings, from its dizzying variety of street food, to its fine restaurants. Only the freshest herbs and vegetables are used, and the cuisine is marked by its play of complementary textures, and balance of sweet, sour, and salty flavors.
And to make your trip to this state truly memorable, we have compiled a list of dishes that will stay with you long after your journey is over. Let’s start.
In Sikkim, the momo has pushed the state’s traditional dish, hyontoen, off the plate. Hyontoen is made of millet flour, rolled like momos, stuffed with cheese and steamed. Today, very few people from the state remember it, although they take immense pride in their ability to prepare batches of delicious momos. At home and in some restaurants, it is served with radish or cucumber salad. While beef and pork are traditional fillings; chicken and vegetable momos are gaining ground.
Interestingly, the dumpling that you get in Sikkim is a close cousin of the Tibetan momo. The great exodus from their homeland in the 1960s scattered Tibetans and their cuisine across India. A majority of them settled in Sikkim, which is why their culture and food habits literally mirror each other.
If you are health-conscious and generally avoid having street foods, Phagshapa of Sikkim is a must try. Specially made for pork lovers, Phagshapa gives you a tangy and spicy flavor at the same time. In addition to that, zero oil and naturally grown radish make this dish a complete protein pack – perfect for a breakfast morning, before you go for sightseeing.
An origin of Nepal, Gundruk is another dish that is generally executed to perfection by local street vendors. It is obtained by fermenting and drying leafy vegetables. It is generally served as a side dish with the main meal and is also used as an appetizer.
As Sikkim shares its borders with Nepal and Tibet, the dishes in the state are an amalgation of all three states. Sel roti is inspired from the food culture of both Sikkim and Tibet, which looks like a cross between a doughnut and a bagel.
Further, Sel roti is generally made during festivals like Tihar (Deepawali) and also gifted to friends and family on festive occasions.
Niguru with Churpi
A household dish that is consumed all over Sikkim, Churpi is a kind of traditional cottage cheese eaten with Niguru, a local fern. It is not easily available in restaurants. So if you want to get your hands on this dish, strike a conversation with the locals. They might end up inviting you to their home for a local meal.
One of Sikkim’s favorite curry, this dish is generally consumed with rice, which is another staple of the state. Highly rich in proteins, this dish is a unique combination of fermented soybean, red chili, tomato, onion, and turmeric powder. Sometimes, fried spices and sun-dried soybean are added to this dish to enrich its taste and flavor.
Simple, healthy and delicious, Thukpas is a complete meal in Sikkim. Thukpas is a combination of locally grown ingredients like spinach, cauliflower, celery, carrots, capsicum and natural spices. Although Thukpas is served in most of the Sikkim restaurants, to get the authentic version, look for local street vendors. This is because they tend to use traditional thupka cooking methods.
A mild alcoholic beverage fermented traditionally and made from cereals like finger millet, rice barley or wheat. It is poured in a bamboo container called “Tongba” and sipped with a bamboo pipe. The receptacle which has millet in it is topped with warm water a couple of times until the millet loses its flavor. Chaang can sometimes be strong and very intoxicating.
Mesu is a traditional street food of Sikkim that is made from fermented bamboo shoots and pork. It’s more like a pickle which is both acidic and sour in taste. This curry is in huge demand, among both locals and tourists. It is highly recommended, especially if you like pork.
Kodo Ko Roti
Although Kodo ko Roti originally belongs to Nepal, it has been adopted by the locals of Sikkim as well. Generally served with tomato achar, Kodo ko Roti is made from finger miller. Although it looks like a pancake, it has a subtle sweet taste as well.
In conclusion, most of the dishes in the state have retained their flavor with only slight variations. This is a true reflection of the versatile taste buds of the Sikkimese local community and their unadulterated love for food—a quality that contributes significantly in making Sikkim the warm and fuzzy city that it will always be. Have you planned your getaway here?
- By Rail: Nearest railway station: NJP Siliguri— 105km
- By Air: Bagdogra airport — 110km
- By Road: From Kolkata — 661km