If the landscape of Ladakh is barren and rugged, though beautiful, then it’s cuisine is rich, colourful, flavoursome & nutritious. Mention the words Ladakhi food though, and most people’s answers end with momos & noodle soup.
While those are an essential part of Ladakh’s cuisines, there is a wide range of dishes which are varied in their looks, taste & preparation methods. Going to Ladakh & not trying out its amazing sumptuous local food would be a big mistake.
The soil of Ladakh is not particularly conducive to agriculture. It is after all, a vast cold desert, and most of the farmers are dependent on snowmelt water for irrigation. Despite the adverse conditions, the people grow most of their grains & vegetables.
Some of the locally produced vegetables are beetroot, potatoes, beans, pumpkins, barley & beans. Non vegetarian food such as yak meat, mutton & chicken is also greatly enjoyed by the people, although these are mostly limited to the winter season.
The influence of Tibet on its cuisine, as on its culture, is also quite strong. This is natural, since Ladakh was a stopping point for traders from Tibet, China & Middle East on the Silk Road.
An example of the Tibetan influence on Ladakhi cuisine is momos, a dumpling stuffed with vegetables, minced chicken or even yak cheese. Other Tibetan dishes which are popular in Ladakh are thukpa, thenthuk and skyu.
Apples, walnuts & apricots are grown in fertile river areas. Of these, apricot is especially famous in Ladakh, and a number of products, from syrup and juice to jam, are produced from it. One should try the Apricot jam while in Ladakh, it’s tasty & nutritious.
The people of Ladakh also supplement their diet with the use of herbs and plants. While wild garlic is used to flavour the dishes, stinging nettles is used to prepare soup.
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Along with these main dishes, there are also some side dishes that are greatly enjoyed by the people. These are:
The cuisine of Ladakh is incomplete without its beverages. From the famous butter tea, known locally as gur gur chai to the traditional drink called Chhang, the beverages are as inviting as the food. The famous beverages of Ladakh are: