Let’s accept the truth, travelling and food go hand in hand. Visiting a tourist destination and trying out the local delicacies can be one of the best ways you could explore the culture and tradition. And when it is about travelling to Ladakh, you get to savour different dishes and cuisines prepared by the locals. There is a huge influence of Tibetan culture in Ladakh, so Thukpa and Momos are palpable here. Well, the list of food in the region is a long one, but we have picked up the important ones from the famous food of Leh Ladakh that should definitely be on your menu when on a visit to this amazing holiday destination.
1. Skyu or Skew: A traditional soup-based dish, Skyu is one of the best local foods of Ladakh to try out. Made from kneaded dough and vegetables, this dish will make you go spellbound. The soft kneaded dough is flattened into pasta-like shaped balls that are put into the pot of hot boiling water with the vegetables cooked at very low heat. Once prepared, the dish is served with meat or momos. The dish is mostly consumed in the winter season and is also the favourite among trekkers who stay in villages.
Best place to try- Wanderers Terrace and Cafe, Main Bazaar, Leh.
2. Tingmo: A vegetarian dish that you cannot miss out on when looking for traditional food in Ladakh. Pronounced as Teemo, Tingmo is a steamed bun-shaped bread that can be eaten with vegetables, dal or if you wish to have it with meat, you can. The dish comes in three variations- sour, spicy and pleasant and can be relished at any time of the day, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Best place to try- Lamayuru Restaurant, Fort Road, Leh
3. Chutagi: Yet another famous food of Leh Ladakh, Chhutagi which literally translates as “water bread” is one of the distinctive Ladakhi delicacies which should be tried. It is made by flattening the dough into circles and then giving them a bow-tie shape. These are then cooked in a pot of either boiling thick soup or meat. The dish is considered to be a heavy meal and gives instant warmth and energy. Also, as you go on exploring different local restaurants in Leh Ladakh, you would come across different versions of Chhutagi. So, surely give it a try.
Best place to try- Alchi Kitchen, Monastery Road, Alchi village, Ladakh
4. Khambir and Butter Tea: Ah! The name of the dish is in itself interesting. Khambir is a traditional bread that is preferred by the locals of Ladakh in the majority of their dishes. The bread is brownish with a thick crust and is served with butter tea (also called Tsaza or Gur Gur Cha). The tea is prepared with milk, butter and salt mixed with boiled tea leaves. The unique taste of freshly baked loaf of Khambir with butter tea is sure to leave you spellbound and is one of the best things you can experience in Leh Ladakh.
Best place to try- Alchi Kitchen, Monastery Road, Alchi village, Ladakh or any other Tibetan kitchen.
5. Ladakhi Pulao: Ladakhi Pulao is yet another famous traditional food of Leh Ladakh, which looks subtle when compared to the other variants of pulao. However, it is nowhere behind in terms of taste. The dish is prepared by soaking raw white rice in the flavours of romantic spices and mutton stock. It is then layered with caramelized onions and carrots as well as nuts. You won’t find it on the streets or restaurants but if you are fortunate enough if you get to savour it when invited by any local to their homes.
6. Cholak: Prepared with barley and roasted grains, Cholak is Leh Ladakh’s traditional food. The scrumptious and mouthwatering dish will satiate your hunger pangs when travelling in the region. What makes the dish even more special are the noodles that make it filling and wholesome. So, make sure you don’t miss out on Cholak when up for trying some outstanding Ladakh food.
Best place to try- in small cafes and kitchen of Ladakh
7.Kulcha Bun: Okay, so this isn’t the normal kulcha bun that we know of in North India. You can either have the dish with butter tea or qahwa and is famous amongst the people of Ladakh. The bun is made with enjoyment and is really soft and thick. So, add it to the list of must-have Ladakh’s dishes when visiting the region.
Best place to try- in the cafes of Ladakh
8. Mokthuk: Marking its existence in the list of the famous food of Leh Ladakh, Mokthuk is an amazing blend of momos and soup. The moment you take the first bite of the juicy momos and slurp the soup, you would get a unique flavour of spices from the hills that surely makes your holidays in Ladakh a superb one.
Best place to try- in the cafes of Ladakh
9. Paba and Tangtur: A nutritious and said to be the staple food of Leh Ladakh, Paba and Tangtur is a stomach filling that is often carried during fieldwork in villages. Made of roasted barley flour or sattu, Paba is a soft bread eaten with Tangtur. Tangtur on the other hand is basically the buttermilk served with some veggies making this cuisine even tastier. If not Tangtur, Paba is even eaten with Zathuk and best savoured during the winter season.
Best place to try- All over Ladakh in cafes
10. Chhurpe or Yak Cheese: Made from the milk of dzomo (a hybrid between domestic cattle and yak), Chhurpe or Yak Cheese is found in two varieties-hard and soft. It is a common ingredient used in the unique flavourful delicacies of Ladakh like thukpa. The yak cheese is even added to tsampa (roasted barley flour) and mixed with butter tea to prepare kholak. The prepared dish is then eaten with minced meat or vegetables. Don’t forget to bring home some Chhurpe for your loved ones on your return from the Ladakh holidays.
Best place to try- from the local vendors in Ladakh
11. Chhaang: Served as a traditional drink to the guests, Chhaang is Ladakh’s local alcoholic beverage. The beer is made by fermenting Barley and is consumed during special occasions like festivals, weddings etc. for centuries. When served to the guests, they place a small piece of butter on the brim of the glass/cup as a sign of respect.
Best place to try- Amigo Korean Restaurant
12. Apricot Jam: Yet another thing to bring home from Ladakh, Apricot Jam is so tasty that you would want to have it again and again. Even though there are so many jams out there, nothing could beat the taste of Apricot Jam in Ladakh. The apricot jam is freshly prepared sweet and tart from the locally grown apricots of Ladakh. What else could be better than treating your sweet tooth with the goodness of Apricot jam when on a trip to Ladakh!
Best place to find- in the grocery stores of Leh
13. Thukpa: And when in Ladakh you can’t forget to try out the Thukpa. This soupy noodle dish with assorted vegetables or minced meat is the best thing to have in Ladakh, especially during winters. Rich in spices, Thukpa not only satiates the taste buds but also warms the body. When in Ladakh, you will get to try out the different varieties of Thukpa like thentuk, pakthuk, etc., and all will make you go wow.
Best place to try- Tenzin Dickey Tibetan Restaurant, Fort Road, Leh
14. Tapu: Mostly eaten by the people of the Sham region, Tapu is prepared with wheat flour shaped into small balls boiled in water and added with crushed apricot seeds. You can enjoy having it either as breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Best place to try- in the villages of Sham Valley
15. Paktsa Marku: Famous in Zanskar and Changthang, Paktsa Marku, is served during the first Tibetan holy month when the devotees fast. The dish is prepared with wheat flour shaped into small balls boiled in water and later added with dried crushed Chhurpe (Yak Cheese) and sugar.
Best place to try- in the cafes, restaurants of Zanskar and Chanthang
16. Momos: Last but definitely not least, Momos is undoubtedly the most popular traditional food in Leh Ladakh. Small dumplings in different beautiful shapes are filled with either vegetables or meat and are widely enjoyed amongst both locks as well as tourists. These dumplings are either steamed or fried and served with dipping sauce enhancing the total zing of the whole dish.
Best place to try- Tenzin Dickey Tibetan Restaurant, Fort Road, Leh; Sky Wok Ladakh, Main Bazaar, Leh; and Street side momos centres.
With this, we come to an end of this blog about the famous traditional food of Leh Ladakh. The food mentioned above is prepared with locally grown vegetables which makes the dishes even more delicious. When in Leh Ladakh, you can head to the restaurants to try out these delicacies. You can even taste some of the traditional Ladakh’s food when exploring the fares and festivals. So, head to Ladakh to relish the local meals and learn a lot about the culture and simple lives of the people.
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