Leh, Ladakh : A food journey

Last year, we travelled to Leh, nestled in the Himalayas. For people who desperately need to take a break from the monotony of everyday work, the corporate rat race, and other materialistic pursuits, this is the right place to go to. With majestic and serene Himalayan mountain range surrounding you all round, greenery everywhere, traditional settlements, and really nice people – Ladakh is the perfect getaway from the madness of it all, a soothing balm for the tired soul ๐Ÿ™‚

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Being from a mountainous place, Ladakhi food is just like Ladakh – simple, honest and unforgettable. A special mention has to be made about the hospitality of its people – their warmth and welcoming nature is truly matchless.

A majority of people think Ladakhi cuisine is all about momos, but in reality, there is so much more to it. Below are listed a few traditional, signature dishes that are must-try (according to what I heard on our trip):

  • The ‘Thukpa’ย – a specialty noodle soup, lightly seasoned with spices, that contains vegetables as well as pieces of chicken/mutton. Since we couldn’t find a totally vegetarian thukpa, we skipped tasting this.
  • ‘Skyu’ย : A traditional dish of Ladakh, this dish is made of kneaded thumb sized wheat flour dough. Cooked mainly with water, it is served with meat and vegetables to form a hearty meal. Again, this is commonly made at Ladakhi homes and we couldn’t find an all-veggie version during our trip in winter.

Here is a compilation of the places we ate at while in Ladakh, with some helpful suggestions on what to eat and where ๐Ÿ™‚

  • LADAKH SARAI

We stayed in Ladakh Sarai for a period of 4 nights and 5 days. We spent one night at Hermitage by Ladakh Sarai, Pangong.

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Food is one of the highlights of this resort, IMHO. Although the food was quite international (with some local specialties), we enjoyed it because it was extremely fresh, delicious and organic. Since we visited in winter, food options were extremely limited outside of the resort. We stayed on a full-board basis, which meant that the package included all three meals and snacks (including beverages). Except for days when we were travelling far away from the resort, we mostly had our meals here. The buffet had a good mix of local, traditional as well as continental dishes, to form a well-rounded out menu. Really simple, honest cooking with seasonal ingredients, grown on the property as well as bought fresh locally.

Listed below are some of the standout, noteworthy dishes we ate at Ladakh Sarai:

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Ginger-honey-lemon tea with a sprinkling of chaat masala. (Outstanding tea!)

Especially because we visited Ladakh during winter, this tea was a godsend. A hot elixir that would greet us as we walked into the resort, shivering, after our day’s adventures. The combination of ginger, honey, lemon, and chaat masala not only tastes delicious and instantly warms you from the inside, but is great for detox as well !

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Freshly brewed hot coffee

This breakfast dish – a plate of fruits and homemade muesli – is special. The fruits on the plate below (you can only partially see them) consisted of apple, musk melon (cantaloupe), and ripe papaya. What made this special was that all of this fruit was organically grown in the orchards/garden attached to the resort. They also had a small cabbage patch, pear trees, apricot trees, and herb garden. All of the dried fruit and nuts in the muesli was locally sourced, from Ladakh. It was great to see local produce coming directly from the farm to the table, and of course being delicious too ๐Ÿ™‚

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Homemade muesli with almonds, apricots, dates, raisins and milk (DELICIOUS!)

Highlights of the dinner menu includes the really yummy desserts that were served – not just one, but two dessert options everyday. Gulab jamoon, dark chocolate mousse, apple pie with caramel sauce, red wine poached pears, banana fritters, fruit custard, white chocolate mousse with caramel sauce, etc are some that we really enjoyed. Special compliments to Chef Pankaj for this!

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Left: Apple pie crumble with caramel sauce Right: dark chocolate mousse

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Red wine poached pear (pears grown in the resort)

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Traditional savoury rice porridge with herbs (Comfort food!)

This savoury rice porridge is one of those local, traditional, simple but hearty dishes that is very lightly spiced, hence very easy on the digestive system. Warms you thoroughly in the cold months and leaves you feeling content but not heavy at all ! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Jacket potatoes with cheese and mayonnaise dip

Again, the potatoes and butter came from their own farm ๐Ÿ™‚

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Ripe banana fritters, while chocolate mousse and caramel sauce

Apart from these highlights, there was the everyday buffet spread consisting of south Indian breakfast items like idly, dosa and poori. There was also North Indian dishes like rotis, paratha and curry, along with basmati rice for dinner ๐Ÿ˜€ Since they were the usual spread, I didn’t bother to photograph them separately. If you visit Leh, consider staying at Ladakh Sarai, you will like the experience ๐Ÿ™‚

  • ALCHI KITCHEN

This restaurant is run by a group of lovely ladies, located very close to the Alchi monastery in Leh. We were recommended this restaurant by our resort, and we chose to have lunch here after our trip to the monastery. Its a very beautiful, traditional setup; very homey, warm and comfortable. They have a simple menu full of traditional Ladakhi dishes. Service was warm, fast and friendly. Food was delicious – we were actually not expecting much out of the place, so we were quite wowed, to say the least ๐Ÿ˜€

Alchi kitchen is the place where we got to try authentic Ladakhi cuisine, since our resort had mostly continental food options with a typical buffet spread. Admittedly, I loved Alchi Kitchen better for its authenticity, simplicity and quaint location. If you go to Alchi, don’t miss this place ๐Ÿ™‚

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The setup at Alchi Kitchen

WHAT WE ATE:

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Vegetable Momos served with chilli sauce ๐Ÿ™‚

Momo is a type of South Asian dumpling; they are native to Tibet, Nepal, and the Sikkim, Assam and Darjeeling regions. Momos are basically steamed refined flour balls stuffed with mixed vegetables (or meat), often seasoned with salt and pepper alone. They are usually served with a spicy red chilli sauce as accompaniment. They are fantastic when eaten steaming hot in the cold mountain climes – a must try dish! ๐Ÿ™‚

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The local ‘Khambir’ bread stuffed with mixed veg curry and cheese; with salad and chilli sauce

Khambir is a pan shaped local flatbread which isย brown in colour with a thick crust, made from local whole wheat (sort of like a paratha). It is served mainly for breakfast along with hot butter tea.

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The famous Ladakhi ‘Butter Tea’ ๐Ÿ™‚

That brings us to the really famous Ladakhi specialty, the butter tea. This signature tea of Ladakh is mainly prepared by stirring butter and salt to boiling milk. It is a bit of an acquired taste, really. DH loved this though ๐Ÿ˜€

Of course, we also had Maggi noodles sometimes (admittedly, Maggi tastes incredible at high altitudes for some inexplicable reason!) Whenever we were travelling, were far away from a restaurant, or we had mid-meal hunger pangs, we just gravitated towards Maggi as an easy and delicious option ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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