While momos and thukpa are commonly seen in restaurants, there are other traditional dishes that form an important part of the cuisine.
Sikkimese cuisine is an amalgamation Nepalese and Tibetan food, along with dishes that are indigenous to the state. While momos and thukpa are commonly seen in restaurants, there are other traditional dishes that form an important part of the cuisine. From pickles and curries to soups and even bread, there’s a rich variety. Here are eight dishes from Sikkimese cuisine that you must try:
Phagshapa is essentially slices of pork fat that have been cooked with red chillies and radish. To make phagshapa, onions, ginger paste and red chillies are sauteed in a bit of oil. Then, radish and the pork fat is added to it and the mixture is stewed in water for some time. The dish is best enjoyed hot, with plain rice.
The word ‘kinema’ comes from the tribal Limbu word ‘kinambaa’, where ‘ki’ translates to fermented and ‘nambaa’ to flavour. Kinema is a fermented soybean that’s found in Darjeeling and Kalimpong besides Sikkim. It is what gives the curry its distinct flavour. The curry is rich in proteins and is served with rice.
Chhurpi is a Himalayan cheese prepared from yak’s milk and is similar to cottage cheese. Chhurpi soup is a traditional Sikkimese soup that can be found at roadside stalls across the state. It is often served to guests as a welcome drink. The soup is garnished with fresh coriander, giving it added flavour.
Shimi ko achar
A vegetarian dish that’s native to Sikkim, shimi ko achar is a kind of pickle made with string beans, sesame seeds, green chillies, salt, oil and lime juice. It is best enjoyed with sel roti, a kind of fried bread. Local food shops in Sikkim sell the dish and it is one of the few vegetarian delights of the region.
Sel roti is a kind of sweet bread made with rice. It is ring-shaped and although it’s popular in Nepal, it is also prepared during Hindu festivals in Sikkim and Darjeeling. The dough for sel roti uses rice flour, milk, water, sugar, ghee, cardamom, cloves and bananas. It is shaped like a ring and then deep-fried.
Also called shabaley, sha phaley is a Tibetan snack that’s widely eaten in Sikkim too. ‘Sha’ refers to the meat and ‘phaley’ represents the bread or outer casing. Usually filled with beef, sha phaley are similar to pastels. These are crispy on the outside and soft and juice on the inside. They are usually served with spicy chutney.
Bamboo shoot curry
Rice is a staple within Sikkim and is enjoyed with numerous curries. Bamboo shoot curry is one of the most popular among these, made using fermented bamboo, to which turmeric is added to get rid of the bitterness. The dish is also known as tama curry.
Mesu is a kind of pork and bamboo shoot pickle. The word ‘mesu’ comes from the Limbu dialect, in which ‘me’ means young bamboo shoot and ‘su’ means sour. Bamboo shoots used to make mesu are fermented and the dish has a sour, acidic flavour.