Sikkim's Food Tales

What do you do when you plan a vacation? You look up for tickets, accommodations, places to see and draw up a budget on the basis of all this. We also do every single bit of all that, and to top it, we look for what the place has to offer us food-wise. I love to travel (have got it from my family) and lately have found extremely like-minded travel buddies and food enthusiasts in my friends Tanushree and Abhishek (henceforth referred to as T and A). While in Delhi, we sampled most of what South Delhi restaurants had to offer and on vacations we follow the same policy. Because however hectic a trip may be, good food can never be given a miss. And our food-motto while on a trip is "Go local"!

Our destination of choice this Summer was the Himalayan Queen Sikkim. A's dad (who works with one of the most reputed national banks) is posted in Gangtok, and so this trip could effectively act as A's homecoming as well as leisure for the rest of us (one dheel, two pakhis). Our initial plan was to spend the first 3 days in Gangtok, visit Rumtek, Tsomgo, Nathu La, detox in home comforts, devour every single type of momo and other Himalayan delights that the city had to offer and then head towards north...the most beautiful, breathtaking and pristine part of Sikkim but with equally rough and difficult terrain.

Our train reached New Jalpaiguri roughly 3 hours late and hailing a cab from the station, we reached Gangtok at 3 in the afternoon. But lo and behold...the city had just about started to witness its first spell of monsoon. But the continuous drizzle intermittent with occasional downpours couldn't deter us from our mission and after freshening up a bit and armed with our woollens and umbrellas we set off for MG Marg (popularly known as Mall Road).

What followed for the next 3 days was madness. We stopped at almost every single food joint, loaded our already-full tummies with anything that was remotely edible, made Thirumoy (or Th, another musketeer who joined our trip for only the Gangtok leg) gape at wonder with our incessant hogging. He was not spared the fever as well. He went to Gangtok as a non-pork eater and 3 days later returned as a convert. On one occasion, he was literally pouncing on beef and was almost ready to bring "shame to his Brahmin lineage" before I stopped him at the nick of time. Overtime we also developed our favourite joints and what we loved about their food.
1. Taste of Tibet: I don't know why I keep on referring to this place as House of Tibet. In a city where everything shuts down by 8 pm, you'll find this place throbbing with activity till 10 or so. In fact, on our first night we were led here for dinner as most of the other places we had targeted had shut for the day. But it was a decision we made the most of. We had two meals there and were overwhelmed with the kind of food they served.
The momos came in "mini-bomb" sizes, rendering it impossible for one person to eat more than 3. We ordered the chilli momo version, which was akin to what we get here as pan-fried momos. Sweet, spicy, tangy...those dumplings had everything going for them. The steam momos were also soft and soupy and completely melted in your mouth. They served both chicken and pork broth with it, but trust me, you could totally do without them.
Then came the Sha Phyales. My tryst with sha phyales so far have been at Delhi University's North Campus, but those were mere kids when compared to the original local version. Stir-fried pork mince stuffed in pockets of flour and deep-fried...these are perfect to cure your craving for fried junk.
Th had asked for a Chicken Gyathuk (Thukpa), but it did not however live up to its expectations. On the contrary, we much preferred the Thenthuk version that we had in Pelling later in the trip.
Now we are serious hogs, and we don't stop at this. So there was still room for Chilli Pork, Chilli Honey Potato, Chicken Noddles, Dry Crispy Chicken, steamed rice and Pork Curry. Phew! Of these, the potatoes were somewhat of a disappointment and the rest were all pitch perfect. Two happy meals and a few pounds later it was time for us to experiment with other restaurants.

2. 9'INE: We had hunted down this place through TripAdvisor and it immediately featured on our lust-list because of its reputation of serving the best local food. So our next stop was 9'INE. Now this place closes down really, really early. They don't take in guests after 7.45 and also take a really long time to prepare their food. We went in at 6.30 for our dinner (imagine that!) to be on the safer side and came out only after 8.30.

In the course of the 2.30 hours that we were there we sampled their dry mushroom fry, the Sikkimese thali which contained gundruk (fermented leaves of radish, cauliflower and mustard), kinema (fermented soyabean), maachoo (cottage cheese cooked with butter and eggs) along with steamed rice and chicken curry. We also ordered the Bhutanese speciality kewa daachi (potato-based cheese cream soup) and stir-fried beef.
What amazed us about this place, apart from the food, was the hospitality of the owner. He not only took the labours to explain to us every single dish we enquired about, but also struck up a friendly conversation with T and A the next day when they chanced upon him at the market.

3. Coffee Shop: This is probably the most happening coffee place in the whole of Gangtok. Spacious and wearing a chic modern look with beautiful pictures framed on walls, and Lonely Planets adorning their magazine section, the Coffee Shop attracts youth and middle aged people alike.

We were too full when we went to this place, so had to settle for an Irish Coffee, Hot Chocolate and some Himalayan sausages, each one of which was par excellence. The addictive smell of pizza that lingered in the entire seating area almost made me order one for us, but none of us were in the state to gulp a single morsel more. So may be, next time!

4. Cacao: Another coffee and dessert joint that became an instant favourite was Cacao.

A tiny place with limited seating (only two tables), they served the perfect hot chocolate and cappuccino and chocolate tart to combat the chill outside. And the best part was, despite their space crunch, the would never hint you to hurry up and you could spend as much time as you can...with a book, with your laptop or just looking at the bustle of the market outside.
Quite a lot for 3 days, don't you think? Well, the incessant rains played spoilsport by hindering our journey to the North, so instead, we packed our bags and headed westwards to Pelling. 116 km from Gangtok, Pelling is a really small town in west Sikkim, roughly 7,000 feet high. The best part of this place was the unobstructed view of the snow-capped Kanchenjunga, sometimes crystal clear and at other times bathed in fog.

We made ourselves comfortable in the quaint little hotel "Garuda" that looked like a pagoda and had a magnificent view from the room. The food scene there was pretty ordinary, mostly catering to the huge number of Bengalis who ordinarily would not sway from their bhaat-dal-alu-posto routine even if marooned on an island. So as I wind up this excessively long post, I leave you with some photographs of Pelling's breathtaking landscape.


  1. Loved your post Pritha. Tibet remains my favorite food joint in Gangtok. Their plates are always warm and the food is lovely. Wonderful photograph of the majestic K as well.

  2. Dear Pritha,
    It took this long for us to understand that Soya chunks could get better with time – “Achari Soya Nuggets”! Your travelogue makes your blog truly attractive- “Sikkim Food Tales”! We would love to feature your culinary skills on our global platform.

    This is an exclusive space for your penmanship, where you can publish your unique culinary outputs in the form of brief food blogs.

    That too you’re the one, who’s going to own this space! We would like to pass it on to others by featuring it on our global platform!

    Sulekha.US would be glad to present your food blog to the Indian communities living abroad. We would love to connect them through one of the most vital channels i.e. food.

    It’s all yours and you’re going to own an exclusive food blog with Sulekha to share your recipes along with their back links. We would promote it across our wall and social media.

    Featuring your recipes on our home page would be a perk for our eager Indians, who are waiting for Desi recipes and baked goodies ranging from ‘grand’ to ‘on the go’.

    Sharing your passion for cooking might rejuvenate the taste buds and senses of millions of Indians living abroad. We’re awaiting your valuable reply.

    Bon Appetite!

    Thanks & regards

    Hamida, Content Manager, Sulekha US


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