A Quick Guide to Food in Lahaul

~Parishka Gupta


One might think that they won’t have anything new to eat in Lahaulh and that they’ll be sustaining on nothing but momos and North Indian cuisines. Well, we’re here to tell you otherwise. Lahaul’s cold, harsh climate doesn’t allow the growth of the greens. Thence, the locals turn to non-vegetarian options like chicken, mutton and even yak, at times. Vegetarian options include veggies fresh from local farmlands. A lot of food eaten in the Himachali cuisine is fermented, which is what makes it stand apart from the quotidian roti and curry combination.


You can enjoy Tibetan cuisine the best when you know a little something about the basics. Allow us to show you the ropes! Here’s a list of dishes and beverages that you cannot miss on your trip to Lahaul and Shuru:

1. Thukpa: A heart and body-warming stew, thukpa includes noodles, tomatoes, onion and garlic as additions to a piping hot chicken, mutton or beef soup served with a spicy chutney. This traditional noodle soup traces its origin back to the Amdo region in Tibet. Legend says that it was the revered Dalai Lama’s mother who introduced this heavenly soup to a refugee community in India back in the 1950s.


2. Madra: A default in the Himachali cuisine, Madra is served in here Pahari home and restaurant alike. Its main ingredients include chickpeas, vegetables and yoghurt which is garnished with dry fruits at the last stage. You can enjoy this amazing delicacy with puris or rotis on every festive occasion.

3. Chhurpi: Imagine cheese, but Tibetan. Chhurpi has solidified yoghurt chopped into cubes, and best enjoyed in the form of a pickle with your main course. You can even ditch the main course and suck and scrape the rock-hard cubes like candy. Even better, you can pop a chhurpi cube in a hot cuppa tea. As you’ll finish up with your tea, you’ll meet your chhurpi cube softened and waiting for you at the bottom. You can’t miss out on this fun Tibetan food!

4. Tsampa: Although tsampa may appear to be trivial, considering it’s nothing but roasted ground barley, the Tibetan culture is neck-deep in this white powder. Tsampa is the very first food ingested by a Tibetan baby, just as it is the very last one ingested by a dying Tibetan. Marking the sacred circle of life, tsampa is of extreme importance in the Himachal region. This comfort food is also used by Buddhist monks to bake blessed bread and mould religious sculptures. Tsampa is very close to the Tibetan hearts considering how barley is one of the very few crops that are arable in the biting cold weather. Note that the best way for you to enjoy tsampa is a piping hot bowl of salted yak butter tea.


5. Momos: If you think you’ve had the best momos in the world at the fast-food corner on your street, the momos in Lahaul, or any Himachali region, are here to prove you wrong. Originally a part of the Tibetan cuisine, momos here are simple and suave with their original taste intact and untainted by North Indian influences. When you look up from your empty plate of momos, you’ll be contented to the heart.



Beverages:


1. Seabuckthorn juice: Prepared from the Leh berries, popularly known as wonder berries of Himachal or the Ladakh Gold, this juice can be found on local vendors on the streets of Lahaul. This wondrous juice is known to possess fantastic nutritional and anti-oxidant values and a slightly sour aftertaste that you’re bound to love.


2. Butter tea: This salty, buttery pink tea is your closest pal on higher altitudes. The Tibetan butter tea is prepared by adding sweltering milk, Himalayan salt and yak butter to a concoction of tea leaves in water. You’ll end up having a cup or two every day!

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