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Sikkim has its own unique dietary culture with specific cuisine and food recipes. Like anywhere else in the world, food habits here have evolved as the result of traditional wisdom and empirical experiences of generations. Today in many parts of the world these traditional foods have entered commercial production, and their recipes have become popular among people of different ethnic origin. In the Sikkim Himalayas traditional foods are an integral part

of the dietary culture of the various ethnic groups of people consisting of the Nepalese, Bhutias and Lepchas. Rice is the staple food. Meat and dairy products are also consumed depending on availability. Besides these, various traditional fermented foods and beverages, which constitute of about 20 per cent of the basic diet for long centuries (Table 1 & 2), are prepared and consumed.

The dietary-culture of this region is mostly reflected in the pattern of food production. Depending on the altitudinal variation, finger millet, wheat, buckwheat, barley, vegetable, potato, soybeans, etc. are grown. Some of the common traditional cuisine with their food recipes has been presented for introduction of dietary culture of the Sikkim Himalayas, as well as for product diversification.

Momo, steamed dumpling prepared from wheat flour and meat/vegetable is very common Tibetan food. Momo has already entered commercial production and is well placed in menus of all local hotels/restaurant.

(steamed dumpling)
Serves 30 momos

Wheat flour 4 cups
Meat 750 g, minces
Onion 2 chopped
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Ginger 1 thumb-sized, finely chopped

Tomato achar
Tomato 2 large, boiled and crushed
Green chilies 4
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Boil tomato, crush and grind with green chilies in stone mortar. Add salt and mix well to give a thick past of tomato achar.

Preparation : Mix well wheat flour with 2 cups of water and knead into a stiff paste, roll out on a floured board till it is very thin. The rolled dough should be about 2 feet square. Cut in circle with the rim of tea cup. Place a circle of dough on your left hand, slightly stretch the edges and place about a teaspoon of filling in the centre. Then with your right thumb and forefinger pleat the dough together over the centre of the meat, forming a pin-wheel design. Your left thumb is used to tuck the minced meat down as you go, and the dumpling turns on your palm as you pleat around it. A special steamer locally called moktu is required. Filled up dumplings are placed on oiled racks, slightly separated in the moktu. Bottom of the moktu is filled with water and steam the dumplings for 20-25 min. Momo is ready to serve hot. Momo is eaten with meat/vegetable soup, and tomato achar.

Thukpa/ Gya-Thuk
Thukpa/Gya-thuk is a typical Tibetan style noodles in soup. Thukpa/Gya-thuk is very popular local cuisine also available in all restaurants and hotels of these regions.

(Noodle soup)
Serves 4 to 6

Egg noodles 300 g
Meat (beef/pork/mutton/chicken) 250 g, minced
Onion 2 finely chopped
Onion leaves 1 Tablespoon, chopped
Garlic 3 flakes, chopped
Green chili 4 sliced
For soup: About 3 litres of clear bone soup - beef/ pork/ mutton / chicken stock. Add 1 Teaspoon of salt.

Preparation : Fry chopped onions with garlic and green chilies, then add minced meat, fry for 10 min. Add salt to taste. Then keep aside after cooking.

Boil 4 litre of water vigorously, and drop noodles, boil for 2 min, stirring occasionally. Drain the noodles through a large sieve and run cold water over them to stop them from sticking. Squeeze the water from the noodles and transfer to a serving bowl. Pour hot soup into bowl with noodles. Put fried meat-onion mixture and finely chopped green onion leaves on top of it. Thukpa/Gya-thuk is ready to serve hot.

Kinema is a traditional fermented soybean food having characteristic stringy property with unique flavour, commonly consume as a main side-dish curry served as meat substitute along with cooked rice in meals. Kinema serves as an inexpensive high source of plant protein food in the local diet. The word Kinema might have originated from the Limbu (one of the major castes of the Nepalis) dialect Kinambaa, Ki meaning fermented, nambaa means flavour.

Kinema curry
(fermented soybean)
Serves 6

Kinema 250 g
Onion 1 chopped
Tomato 1 sliced
Green chilies 3 pieces
Turmeric powder 1/4 Tablespoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon

Preparation : Heat oil and add chopped onions and fry till it becomes tender, add tomatoes and turmeric powder and fry for 2 min and then Kinema is fried, add salt, sliced green chilies and fry for 3-5 min. A little water is poured to make a thick curry, and cook for 5-7 min. Kinema curry is ready for serve with cooked rice. Sun-dried kinema is sometimes mixed with leafy vegetable to make mixed curry as side-dish.

Vatamas ko achar
(non-fermented soybean pickle)
Serves 6 to 8

Soybean 200 g
Ginger paste 1 Tablespoon
Chili powder 1 Teaspoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Mustard oil 1 Tablespoon
Preparation : Roast soybean in a pan, and grind. Add all the ingredients to soybean powder, and mix well, keep in a covered jar. It can be kept for several days. Serve Vatamas ko achar with cooked rice/Selroti.

Gundruk & Sinki
Gundruk and Sinki are traditional fermented vegetable products prepared during winter when fresh perishable vegetable is plenty. Gundruk is a fermented product of leafy vegetable such as rayo sag (Brasicca rapa spp. campestris variety cuneifolia), leaves of mustard, radish and cauliflower. Sinki is prepared from radish tap root only. The quality attributes to Gundruk and Sinki basically depends upon the typical flavour and sour-acidic taste which is developed during natural fermentation by lactic acid bacteria, mainly spp. of Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. Gundruk and Sinki are sun dried after fermentation and stored for consumption. Due to high content of organic acid and low pH, these products can be preserved for a year or more. This is a good example of biopreservation of perishable vegetable. Gundruk and Sinki are good appetizers due to high content of lactic and acetic acid developed during fermentation.

Gundruk and Sinki soup
(fermented vegetable)
Serves 6 to 8

Gundruk/Sinki 50 g
Onion 1 chopped
Tomato 1 chopped
Dry red chili 2 pods
Turmeric powder 1/2 Tablespoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Preparation : Soak Gundruk/Sinki in water for 10 min. Heat oil and fry chopped onions, tomatoes, chilies. Drain up soaked Gundruk/Sinki and fry, add turmeric powder and salt, and put 2 cups of water. Boil for 10 min, and serve hot with cooked rice.
Gundruk ko achar
Serves 6

Gundruk 50 g
Onion 1 chopped
Green chilies 3 chopped
Oil 1 Tablespoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Preparation : Mix all ingredients, and serve as achar (pickle) along with cooked rice.

Chhurpi is a fermented dairy product prepared from cow milk. Chhurpi is a traditional cottage cheese which gives a texture of a white soft mass with mild sour taste. It is fermented by spp. of lactic acid bacteria. Average consumption of Chhurpi is 9.9.g/capita/day with annual production of 1469 ton in Sikkim.

Chhurpi soup
(traditional cottage cheese)
Serves 6

Chhurpi 250 g
Onion 1 chopped
Tomato 1 sliced
Green chilies 3 sliced
Ginger 1 Tablespoon (grated)
Paanch phoran 1/2 Tablespoon
Turmeric powder 1/4 Tablespoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon

Preparation : Heat oil, fry Paanch phoran, add chopped onion till it becomes golden brown. Add finely sliced and grated ginger, tomatoes and seasoned with Chhurpi and add salt. Stir and fry till oil separates. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Serve hot with cooked rice.

Chhurpi ko achar
Serves 6

Chhurpi 250 g
Onion 1 chopped
Radish/Cucumber 1 sliced
Green chilies 6 chopped
Mustard oil 1 Teaspoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon

Preparation : Mix all ingredients, and serve as achar.

Chhurpi - Ningro (wild edible fern) Curry
The people of the Sikkim Himalayas eat many varieties of wild ferns commonly grown in these regions. Some of the common edible ferns are Diplazium polypodiodes locally called "sauney ningro", iplazium spp. "kali ningro", etc. Recipe of wild fern is unique in these regions which is mostly mixed with Chhurpi to taste. Ningro, an alpine fiddle-head fern and its tendrils when sauted with Churpi( form of cheese) makes an irresistible dish. Normally it is not served in the restaurants but is prepared as a household dish.

Chhurpi-Ningro curry
(Chhurpi with wild fern)
Serves 6

Chhurpi 250 g
Ningro (wild fern) 12 stems (cut into 1 inch piece)
Onion 1 chopped
Green chilies 3 sliced
Paanch phoran 1/2 Tablespoon
Turmeric powder 1/4 Tablespoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Preparation : Heat oil and add Paanch phoran spice (a mixture of spices such as asafetida, dry coriander, cumin seeds, fenugreek, etc.), fry chopped onion till it becomes golden brown, add chilies and turmeric powder. Fry finely cut pieces of Ningro and add a little amount of water, cook for 10 min. Seasoned Chhurpi and simmer briefly for 10-15 min. Curry is ready to serve with cooked rice.

Mesu is a traditional fermented bamboo shoot product with sour-acidic taste eaten as pickle. In the Limbu dialect, me means young bamboo shoot and su means sour, the word Mesu is directly derived from the Limbu dialect. Young bamboo shoots are fermented under natural anaerobic condition for 7-15 days, initiated by spp. of Lactobacillus and Pediococcus to get Mesu. It has high content of organic acid and low pH with rich mineral contents.

Mesu pickle
(fermented bamboo shoot)
Serves 4 to 6

Mesu 250 g
Chili powder 3 Teaspoon
Mustard oil 1 Tablespoon
Garlic 4 piece, crushed
Salt 1 Teaspoon

Preparation : Mix all ingredients with mesu. Keep in a closed jar. Mesu is ready to serve with cooked rice.

Tama is a non-fermented bamboo shoot product. Some varieties of bamboo shoots commonly grown in the Sikkim Himalayas are Dendrocalamus hamiltonii, Dendrocalamus sikkimensis and Bambusa tulda locally known as ‘choya bans’, ‘bhalu bans’ and ‘karati bans’, respectively are edible when young. These bamboo shoots are collected, defoliated and boiled in water with turmeric powder for 10-15 min to remove bitter taste of bamboo. Tama is ready for consumption. Tama is commonly sold in the local markets during the months of June to September when young bamboo shoots sprout.

Tama curry
(Non-fermented bamboo shoot)
Serves 4

Tama 250 g
Methi (Asafetida) 1/2 Teaspoon
Turmeric powder 1/2 Tablespoon
Salt 1/2 Teaspoon
Dale khorsani (Fresh round chili) 1 sliced
Preparation : Heat oil and fry dry asafetida seeds. Put finely sliced Tama, turmeric powder, sliced round chili and salt. Stir and cook for 3 minutes. Tama, curry is ready to serve with cooked rice.

Masauyra is a fermented black gram, ball-like hollow product consume as spicy condiment. Masauyra is mostly common among Newar of the Nepalis. It is similar to the Punjabi Wari.

Masauyra curry
(fermented black gram)
Serves 4

Masauyra 50 g
Onion 1 chopped
Cumin seeds 1 Teaspoon
Turmeric powder 1 Teaspoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon

Preparation : Heat oil, add cumin seeds, sautéed chopped onions, Masauyra turmeric powder and salt, and fry for 2 min. Pour 1 cup of hot water and cook for 10 min. Masauyra curry is ready to serve with cooked rice.

Khalo Dal
Khalo dal is very common dal prepared from black gram (Phaseolus mungo).

Khalo dal
(Non-fermented black gram)
Serves 4 to 6

Black gram 250 g
Onion 1/2 chopped
Ginger paste 1 Tablespoon
Turmeric powder 1 Teaspoon
Mustard oil 1 Teaspoon
Ghee (butter) 1 Tablespoon
Garlic cloves 4 flakes, sliced
Salt 2 Teaspoon
Preparation : Boil thoroughly cleaned and washed black gram with turmeric powder, ginger paste and 1 teaspoon of mustard oil till it is fully cooked (grams can be crushed easily). Heat ghee, sautéed onion and garlic, combine with cooked dal, add salt and mix well. Khalo dal is ready to serve with Sidra ko achar and cooked rice.

Sidra ko Achar
Sidra ko achar is a flavoured pickle prepared from dry, small fish Sidra.

Sidra ko achar
(dry fish pickle)
Serves 6

Sidra 50 g
Dry chili 4 pods
Tomato 1, large
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Preparation : Clean and wash Sidra, roast on a charcoal fire or on a hot iron plate locally called ‘tawa’. Roast tomato in the same way, peel and grind all ingredients in stone grinder. Sidra ko achar is served with cooked rice and Khalo dal.

Widely prepared during Nepali festivals, Saelroti is normally eaten with potato curry or non-vegetarian dish. Normally not available in restaurants but Saelroti is prepared from well-mixed fermented rice batter which is deep fried, ring-shaped, spongy, pretzel-like product commonly consume as confectionery bread in festival and special occasions. The batter is fermented by spp. of yeasts and lactic acid bacteria.

(fermented rice product)
Serves 8 to 10

Rice 1000 g
Wheat flour 250 g
Milk 500 ml
Sugar 200 g
Ghee 100 g

Preparation : Wash and soak rice overnight; pound into fine powder. The rice flour supplemented with butter, sugar and some spices are made into batter by adding milk and 2 cups of water, and allowed to ferment for between 4 h during summer and 24 h during winter at room temperature. The leavened batter is squeezed by hand and deposited as continuos ring onto hot edible oil till they become gold brown. Selroti is served as staple confectionery bread with Shimi ko achar and mutton curry.

Shimi ko Achar
Shimi ko achar is pickle made up from string bean (Dolichus lablab) locally called "shimi".

Shimi ko achar
(String bean pickle)
Serves 6 to 8

String bean (Shimi) 1/2 Kg
Sesame seeds (Til) 100 g
Green chili 6, sliced
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Lemon juice 1 Tablespoon
Preparation : Wash and cut string beans into thin slanting slices. Boil for 5 min and strain. Roast Til for 3 min and grind to make a thick paste. Heat oil and fry sliced green chilies. Pour these over the beans. Add Til paste, salt and lemon to taste and mix well. Shimi ko achar is ready to serve with Selroti.

Pakku is a typical mutton curry of this region which is served with cooked rice or Selroti.

(Mutton curry)
Serves 6

Mutton 1 kg
Marinating paste:
Cumin seeds 2 Teaspoon
Dry coriander 2 Teaspoon
Ginger paste 1 Tablespoon
Cloves 6
Garlic 8 flakes
Onion 1 chopped
Small cardamom 6
Cinnamon 1/2 inch
Nutmeg powder 1/2 Tablespoon
Hing (small) 1
Turmeric powder 1 Teaspoon
Salt 2 Teaspoon
Preparation : Marinate mutton pieces with the paste, add salt and turmeric powder and keep for 20 min. Fry in edible oil and cook for an hour in low heat. Serve hot with cooked rice or Selroti.

Kodo ko Roti
Kodo ko roti is typical pancake prepared from finger millet locally called Kodo which is served with different varieties if pickles.

Kodo ko roti
(non-fermented finger millet pancake)
Serves 6 to 8

Finger millet flour 3 cups
Sugar 1 Tablespoon
Ghee 2 Tablespoon

Preparation : Mix finger millet flour-sugar with 1 cup of lukewarm water and knead to make a thick paste. Heat ghee in a frying pan and spread tablespoon heaped of paste into a greased frying pan. Thoroughly cook over medium heat, and remove. Repeat with remaining mixture. Kodo ko roti is served with pickles.

Phapar ko Roti
Phapar ko roti is a traditional buckwheat chapati.

Phapar ko roti
(Buckwheat chapati)
Serves 6 to 8

Buckwheat flour 3 cups
Green onion leaves, chopped 2 Tablespoon
Green chili 3
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Banana leaves (for wrapping) depending on quantity of roti baked
Preparation : Mix all ingredients with 1 cup of water and knead to make a thick paste. Spread a heap of paste over a big banana leaf, covered by another banana leaf, and bake in a pan for 1 min. Transfer the partially baked dough with banana leaf inside the earthen oven in a vertical position for 3 min. Remove the banana leaf while eating. Phapar ko roti is served with Philinge ko achar or Silam ko achar.

Silam ko Achar
Silam ko achar is a pickle prepared from Silam seeds, and is usually served with Phulaurah.

Silam ko achar
Serves 6

Silam 100 g
Dried chili 5 pods
Lemon juice 2 Teaspoon
Salt 2 Teaspoon
Ginger 1/2 inch
Preparation : Roast Silam with chili in a pan for 10 min. Grind roasted Silam-chili with ginger and salt in a mortar. Mix lemon juice to taste.

Phulaurah is buckwheat-based fritter eaten as snacks.

(Buckwheat fritter)
Serves 10

Buckwheat powder 250 g
Baking powder 1/2 Tablespoon
Turmeric powder 1/2 Tablespoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Fresh onion leaves 6, finely chopped
Preparation : Mix all ingredients with 1 cup of water to make a thick batter. Heat oil and deep fry a tablespoon of the batter at a time until it becomes golden brown. Serves hot with Silam ko achar.

Chambray is a typical Nepali type Pulao prepared from local varieties of rice.

(fry-cooked rice)
Serves 6

Rice 250 g
Cinnamon 1/2 inch
Turmeric powder 1/2 Tablespoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Bay leaves (tej-patta) 4
Ghee 2 Tablespoon
Black cumin seed 1
Preparation : Soak rice with bay-leaves and cinnamon for 20 min. Heat ghee in a wok, add all the ingredients, and put soaked rice, fry for 5 min till ghee separates. Pour water slowly and leave it till rice is cooked. Chambray is eaten with Til ko alu.

Til ko Alu
Til ko alu is a typical Nepali style potato curry mixed with sesame seeds (Sesame indicum) locally called Til.

Til ko alu
(Potato curry with sesame seeds)
Serves 6

Potato 250 g
Onion 1 sliced
Green chili 4 sliced
Sesame seeds (Til) 10 g
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Preparation : Cut boiled and peeled potato into small pieces. Fry Til for 10 min and grind to make paste. Heat oil and fry onion, add potato and Til paste, salt and turmeric powder, mix and simmer for 5 min. Serves with Chambray.

Sishnu (Nettle leaves) Soup
Sishnu soup is prepared from leaves of edible wild varieties of nettle. Sishnu soup is a typical Himalayan cuisine served with cooked rice. Many wild varieties of nettle are grown in these regions some of which are edible such as Urtica dioica locally called "ghario sishnu", Laportee terminalis "patle sishnu", and Girardinia diversifolia "bhangrey sishnu".

Sishnu soup
(Nettle leaves soup)
Serves 6

Nettle leaves 20-25 leaves
Rice 50 g
Garlic 4 flakes, sliced
Turmeric powder 1/2 Tablespoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Ghee 1 Tablespoon
Preparation : Boil nettle leaves with rice, turmeric powder and salt till it is fully cooked. Heat oil and sautéed garlic flakes, add to cooked thick nettle soup. Sishnu soup is ready to serve with cooked rice.

(Non-Alcoholic Beverage)

MOHI (Butter-milk)
Mohi is a traditional non-alcoholic buttermilk beverage, which is usually served in vegetarian meals. Mohi is slightly sour-acidic in taste.

DAHI (Curd)
Dahi is fermented milk product, which is thick and non-alcoholic beverage. Average consumption of Dahi in Sikkim is 61 ml/capita/day. In the local vegetarian meal Dahi is served as a side-savory drink.

Alcoholic Beverage

Jaanr/ Chaang
Fermented alcoholic beverages have strong ritual importance among the various ethnic groups of people of the Sikkim Himalayas. The social activities in these regions require provision and consumption of appreciable amount of alcoholic beverages. Traditionally prepared alcoholic beverages are commonly served in main meals among the alcohol-drinker communities as a part of dietary culture. Jaanr/Chaang is a mild alcoholic and sweet-sour fermented cereal-based beverage. It is sipped from a bamboo receptacle using bamboo pipe. The receptacle which has millet in it is topped with warm water a couple of times until the millet loses its flavour. Chang can sometimes be strong and very intoxicating. Depending upon the substrates used, Jaanr/Chaang may be as follows:

Kodo ko jaanr fermented finger millet beverage

Bhaate Jaanr fermented rice beverage

Makai ko Jaanr fermented maize beverage

Gahun ko Jaanr fermented wheat beverage

Jahun ko Jaanr fermented barley beverage

Simal tarul ko Jaanr fermented cassava root beverage

Kodo ko Jaanr is consumed in a decorated bamboo vessel locally called "toongbaa". Fermented mass of finger millet is put into the "toongbaa", little amount of warm water is added upto the edge, after 10-12 min, liquor is sipped through a narrow bamboo straw called "pipsing" having a hole in a side near the bottom to avoid passing of grits. Jaanr is believed to be a tonic for ailing persons and postnatal women. After consumption, grits of finger millets are used as fodder for pigs and cattle.

Raksi is a clear distilled wine with characteristic aroma prepared from fermented starchy materials mostly Bhaate Jaanr.


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