Bucket List: Understanding Sikkimese Cuisine

Bucket List: Understanding Sikkimese Cuisine
View of Kanchenjunga from Pelling, Sikkim Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Move aside momo and thukpa because we are about to get up close and personal with Sikkimese cuisine

Precious Kamei
September 01 , 2019
03 Min Read

How many plates of momo is it going to be to finally say "that's it. That's my quota of momos for life"? While we may never actually reach this point (#MomosForever) but what if we maybe, just maybe, let go of momos this one time and explore Sikkim for its other traditional dishes? While some may feel like this is tough love, wait till you find out more about what the lovely land of Sikkim has in store for you, food-wise. And did you know already that Sikkim is 100 percent organic state? Let's explore Sikkim one traditional dish at a time.

A local Sikkimese woman prepares saelrotiOr as we call it 'tasty ring of love'. Reach Sikkim during festivals and you will find these fried rings-of-heaven served with either potato curry or meat curry. Saelroti is prepared from fermented rice batter, fried in the shape of a ring; imagine how jalebis are made, only less gnarly and bigger of course. Definitely a must-try dish when in Sikkim.


Soup made from soft churpiWould you like some cheese that threatens to never leave your side? Don't worry, it's a good thing. These solid hard pieces of traditional cheese made from cow's milk or yak's milk is a traditional delight. They are of mild sour taste and are in sizes small enough to simply pop one in the mouth and then wait for the mouth to slowly do the needful--make it soft enough to chew. If patience is not your thing then don't worry, Sikkim is thoughtful enough to bring to you the softer variety too that are often used in soups, as a side dish with your plate of rice. Chew away with this one!

Yes, we are going to talk more about fermented food. Kinema is a fermented soybean food item, popular in Sikkim. Think of Nagaland's axoni when you think of Kinema. Still can't picture it? It is fermented, odorous even, are are great when added to soup or gravy or even as a little spiced up pickle-like side dish. Kinema can be an acquired taste and once you get past the fermented factor, it can be a great too.

Gundruk and Sinki
We are not done with fermented food yet. Up next is gundruk, a fermented and sun-dried item made from mustard or radish leaves. While gundruk is sundried, sinki preparation is special. Aged radish tap root gets preserved in a layer of bamboo and straw and covered by vegetation, rocks, wood and mud. The already fermented radish tap roots get that extra TLC and it's a great addition to curries, soups and pickles.

Sisnu or stinging nettle soupIf are into stuff like hiking in the beautiful mountains of northern India, you know the touch of a stinging nettle. Sikkimese conquered this annoying plant by turning the pain into pleasure, they turned it into a soup and a great one at that. The tender light green leaves and shoots are cooked (and blended) till it becomes a fine smooth soup. This one's a personal favourite.

Chaang or millet beer is a local favourite in SikkimChaang is as local as you can get in Sikkim. This alcoholic beverage is simply best ans so fun to drink. It's both hot and cold! The beverage is fermented millet beer that is traditionally served in bamboo mugs. A thin bamboo straw is what you get to sip the beer; the mug is filled with fermented millet and hot water is poured on top. When you take a sip from the straw, what you get is a cool sweet and mildly sour drink. It's never ending (well, almost) because you can keep refreshing your mug by pouring hot water till the millet is minus its flavour. See, chaang is fun!

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