AN ELGIN EXCLUSIVE FEATURE
As the broth boils, imparting flavors into the saporous bound doughy pocket of happiness, camouflaging the spices it has been tossed with, this delightful plate of six dumplings, could be eight if in Sikkim, stores a power within to woo you with its texture and red spicy chutney- a plate never enough to satisfy the undying cravings for the king of dumplings- MOMO. As much as this succulent dish has traveled the world transforming its form answers a part of the question- the famous foods of Sikkim.
Momos with the spiced vegetable soup a Sikkim specialty.
Seated at the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas, Sikkim, India’s least populous state is a sight to behold. Glaciers, waterfalls, rivers, valleys, and the world’s third highest mountain peak are just a few of the eccentricities that make this second smallest state a unique and magnificent adventure. But is this the best Sikkim has to offer? We’re not even close. As it shares its borders with Bhutan, Tibet, and Nepal the rich cultural legacy becomes a natural consequence. Apart from influencing Sikkim’s traditions and culture, the states had a significant role on its cuisine.
Image by Jacek Szycht, Flickr
Thenthuk cooked into seasonal vegetables and shredded chicken could be the flavors that mark your memories.
A dish which comes a perfect pair with the flavorsome momos is thenthuk, another popular food midst local people just as the vacationer visiting Sikkim. Flattened noodles trickled into well-cooked gurgling soup infused with aromatic spices, seasonal vegetables, and shredded seasoned meat. A recipe with diverse flavors in every household. A comfort food in chilly winter days to warm you up with each slurp. The dish shares Tibetan roots yet it has changed into something other than what’s expected with some additional flavors which put a Sikkimese flavor to it. It is solid sustenance which can be the two veggies just as non-veg.
Image and caption by Tnp.org
Tibetan khapse ready for frying. This shape is made by cutting the dough into a narrow rectangle and then making a slit in the middle. Then one side of the khapse is pulled through.
If you stumble with a notion that Sikkim is majorly about spices the next delightful cracker would take you towards another arena of biscuits. A special part of any Tibetan New Year or Losar celebration is the eating of khapse, deep fried Tibetan cookies. Tibetan nuns, like Tibetan lay people all around the world, will be hard at work in the days prior to Losar, preparing massive batches of these crunchy biscuits.
Image and caption by tnp.org
Stacks of a special type of khapse made by the nuns decorate the Losar altar at Dolma Ling Nunnery in northern India. Photo from the Tibetan Nuns Project 2014.
The dough for the khapse, prepared with flour, eggs, butter and sugar is rolled out and made into different shapes and sizes. The small twisted rectangular pieces are served to guests. Donkey Ears or bhungue amcho (also known as khugo) are prepared as a Larger and more elaborate shapes. These are large elongated hollow tubes of crispy pastry are then stacked up on the Losar altar as both a food offering and as a decoration with strings of dried Tibetan cheese draped over the top.
Wachipa, rice prepared with exquisite burnt chicken feathers powder, a dish to be in a must-try list.
Originating from the Nepalese Kirat Rai people comes a unique recipe, wachipa. A recipe poised with a powder prepared from burnt chicken feathers combined with rice and minced chicken. The powder imparts a unique bitter aromatic flavor into the rice and thereby eaten on special occasions. This dish holds a belief of cure for the body aches amid the locals. The meat in the recipe could be replaced with flowers and leaves, yet both versions are served traditionally.
Image by Palican, flickr
Traditional Sikkemese bamboo shoot curry served with rice and full of spices would make a path to your Sunday cuisine.
Edible young bamboo culms that grow out of the ground- bamboo shoots. A traditional Sikkimese Curry dish made with fermented bamboo shoots. A heap of turmeric is used to mask the bitterness of bamboo shoots and enhance the flavors. For locals, they call this bamboo stalk curry as Tama curry. The bamboo shoots are cooked with diverse spices maintaining the delicate bamboo fragrance.
The diverse culture around the state could be witnessed as every corner restricts you to move further with the authentic aromas swirling around. The unique recipes with distinct ingredients would burst a range of flavors in each bite, many recipes have stayed identical, while others have been tweaked. Sikkim cuisine has every flavor you desiderate, and you’re bound to savor all of it. These are just a handful of Sikkim’s delectable cuisines, many more to indulge.