The food is filling and warming, meant to sustain people through the harsh winter.
Ladakhi food has been heavily influenced by Tibetan cuisine. While momos are a common feature of Ladakhi cuisine, other dishes are also important. Soupy dishes are the norm, eaten with steamed bread or cooked dough. The food is filling and warming, meant to sustain people through the harsh winter. Here are some Ladakhi dishes and drinks to try:
In Ladakhi, ‘chhu’ means water and ‘tagi’ means bread. To make chhutagi, flattened dough is cut into circles and shaped into bow-ties. It is then cooked in a thick soup of meat or vegetables. Chhutagi is considered a heavy and energy-boosting meal, which is served to workers during the harvest season.
Skyu is another soupy dish that is a Ladakhi specialty. Dough is kneaded into balls, which are flattened and cooked on a low heat with vegetables and water. The dish may also be made with meat. Mainly a winter dish, skyu is popular with hikers as it is filling and high in calories. Some versions of skyu also use milk.
The popular Tibetan noodle soup is also a staple in Ladakh. Cooked with meat and assorted vegetables, it is a healthy and comforting dish that’s meant for cold weather. The noodles used in thukpa are usually made with wheat or barley flour. Thukpa broth is flavoured with many spices and is warming.
Another Tibetan classic, tingmo is a type of bread that’s usually eaten with gravy-based dishes. It is a kind of steamed bun that’s soft and fluffy. To make tingmo, the dough is kneaded and twisted into a roll before being steamed. Ladakhi people have incorporated it into their diets and eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Also known as ‘tagi’ or bread, khambir makes a great accompaniment to Ladakhi broths and stews. It is a kind of whole wheat brown bread with a crust. Khambir’s size and thickness makes it very filling and a good snack to enjoy along with Ladakhi butter tea. Besides soupy dishes, it may also be eaten with vegetables and eggs.
Made from yak’s milk, chhurpi is a type of cheese that’s used to flavour different Ladakhi dishes. It is added to thukpa during the winter when meat and vegetables are scarce. The cheese is also added to roasted barley flour and combined with butter tea to prepare a dish called ‘kholak’, which is eaten with minced meat or vegetables.
A local beer from Ladakh, chhang is produced by fermenting barley and contains 5-7% alcohol. The drink is a mainstay at festivals, weddings and other functions. A pot of chhang is offered to the girl’s family when a marriage proposal is made. If the pot is accepted, then it signifies that the girl’s family is ready for the alliance.
Tea leaves are boiled in milk and water, to which butter and salt are added. Ladakhi people drink butter tea throughout the day to keep themselves warm and hydrated. It is also served at important occasions like weddings and festivals. ‘Kholak’ is prepared by adding roasted barley flour to butter tea.