Sikkim is a magical place on India’s northeastern frontier, bordered by Bhutan, Tibet, and Nepal. Glaciers, lush meadows, and sparkling waterfalls abound, and the culture is mostly agrarian.
Sikkim’s food culture is unconsciously related to Momos, as is the case with any other state in India’s northeast region. Sikkim’s food culture is also heavily influenced by its neighbors: Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. However, soups and stews are commonly consumed in Sikkim, either as the main dish or as a side dish. Sikkim’s alcoholic and fermented beverages are also well-known. The base flavors of the Sikkim foods are spicy and rich in nature, and the cheese made from Yak milk is often used as well.
Although there are many vegetarian options available in the Sikkim food culture, the scene is heavily dominated by non-vegetarian dishes, specifically Pork and beef. Sometimes, an unusual mixture of cheese and meat in a stew can also be observed in their delicacies.
Top 10 Most Famous Sikkimese Foods
Thenthuk originates from the Tibetan region that borders Sikkim. It is made up of mutton or any kind of meat, cooked with wheat flour and vegetables. The texture is similar to that of a noodle soup. There are two versions of this soupy delight- vegetarian and non-vegetarian, both versions are equally popular servings for dinner, but the vegetarian Thenthuk is mostly preferred by old people because of their healthy nature,
2) Sha Phalley:
This dish also originates from Tibet. It is a kind of dumpling created in a semi-circle shape and is usually stuffed with ground beef and cabbage, after which it is deep-fried to give it a brownish burn. The best part about Sha Phalley is how the crunchy texture outside compliments the soft texture of the stuffing inside. It is mostly served with bone marrow soup and chilly tomato chutney as accompaniments.
3) Sael Roti:
Sael Roti or Sel Roti is a deep-fried circular-shaped bread that is considered a staple sikkim food. One can even consider Sael Roti to be a healthier alternative to donuts because the batter for the Sael roti is made from rice flour. A delicacy of the Northeastern regions of India. They are sold by street vendors in other states. Still, they are very popular in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, and Nagaland. In Sikkim, Sael Rotis are eaten during auspicious occasions and festivals.
4) Chhurpi/Yak cheese:
Yak cheese, popularly known as ‘Chhurpi’ amongst the locals of Sikkim, is a type of cheese created with Yak milk. They are much higher in nutrients, protein, and fat than the normal cheese and have a much creamier texture than other cheeses. Yak cheese is hardened and cut into cubes to make chhurpi, but Yak cheese blocks are also directly consumed. This delicacy is a favorite of the sherpas and mountaineers. Tawang region in Arunachal Pradesh also makes and sells Chhurpis.
5) Gundruk soup:
The Gundruk soup can be traced down to the Nepalese but has rapidly become a staple Sikkim food. This is one of the few vegetarian dishes in Sikkim food culture and consists of mustard leaves, cabbage, radish, and carrot as the soup’s base. Coriander leaves and tomatoes can be added as flavor enhancers as well. Gundruk soup is traditionally cooked in an earthen pot, but steam cookers are also being used repeatedly.
It is believed that the best Gundruk soup can be found inside small village households as the ingredients and cooking methods are much more organic and healthier in nature. This soup is popular for its ability to maintain a healthy metabolism as well.
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6) Thukpa / Gya Thuk
Out of every Sikkimese dish present, Thukpa is a crowd favorite. Evident by how widespread it is in India, with it being available in states outside the Northeastern frontier, like Delhi, Thukpa is a dish we hold close to our hearts. Due to its simplicity and savory nature, Thukpa can be easily customized to fit the cook’s preference. The ingredients can range from chicken or beef to just thinly sliced cabbages and boiled vegetables and mushrooms. Still, the most common ingredients are wheat noodles, carrots, bell peppers, spinach, and celery. Thukpas have medicinal values in times of coughs and colds and have even proven to cure mild fevers.
7) Chhurpi with Ningro Curry:
This dish can be labeled as the most authentic dish of the Sikkim food culture as it originates from Sikkim only. It used Fiddlehead ferns, a local fern found in Sikkim, and prepares it into a curry mixed with Chhurpi.
8) Sinki Soup:
Sinki is a popular fermented Sikkim food and has properties similar to gundruk. It is made up of radish tap roots chopped and left to ferment in a sealed bamboo container. The container is then covered with vegetation and mud for about a month. The bacteria finish it off to create pickled radish taproots, i.e., Sinki. This soup is cooked by adding the Sinki pickle to boiling water; it has a sour taste due to its fermentation. An important point to note about Sinki soup is that it a dish that is only served at home and cannot be found in restaurants.
Chaange is a type of brewed alcoholic beverage made from rice, fermented millets, and yeast. It is potent in nature and is usually served in a piped bamboo cup. Chaange is also known as Thomba.
10) Kinema Curry:
Kinema curry is made from fermented soybean, sliced tomatoes, and flavor enhancers like turmeric powder, onions, red chilies, and garlic. This curry originates from Sikkim and can be a rich source of protein for vegetarians.
Where Do We Find These Delicacies?
Due to the state’s agrarian nature, Sikkim is made up of small villages and towns. Therefore, local Sikkim food can only be found in guesthouses, hotels, restaurants, and small roadside cafes. Even better if you have a Sikkimese friend because nothing can beat a good home-cooked meal!
But, if you don’t have any prior connections or friends, restaurants and local cafes are the ways to go. Towns like- Pelling and Yoksum are the best options if you want to enjoy good Sikkimese food. The prices of Sikkim food are also quite affordable and reasonable.