Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being thupka (noodle soup) and tsampa , known in Ladakhi as ngampe (roasted barley flour). Edible without cooking, tsampa makes useful trekking food. A dish that is strictly Ladakhi is skyu, a heavy pasta dish with root vegetables. As Ladakh moves toward a cash-based economy, foods from the plains of India are becoming more common. As in other parts of Central Asia, tea in Ladakh is traditionally made with strong green tea, butter, and salt. It is mixed in a large churn and known as gurgur cha, after the sound it makes when mixed. Sweet tea (cha ngarmo) is common now, made in the Indian style with milk and sugar. Most of the surplus barley that is produced is fermented into chang, an alcoholic beverage drunk especially on festive occasions.
Tourists in Ladakh can try local Ladakhi food, which is nourishing and usually mildly flavored. Favorites include Thukpa, a thick soup with vegetables that provides a complete meal and delicious Momos or steamed dumplings stuffed with meat or vegetables, accompanied by a fiery chili sauce.
There are also many bakeries in Ladakh where you can buy freshly baked bread and enjoy eating it with locally made Apricot Jam. There are many restaurants in Leh, where you can have an international meal or choose from Tibetan or Ladakhi fare if you prefer.
Some Ladakhi Cuisine
Apart from Tsampa there are few other delicacies too that one should get a taste of while visiting Ladakh:
- Pava – peas and barley flour boiled in water for a long time until the peas are hard.
- Chalak – a mixture of tea, butter, sugar and Tsampa.
- Khambish – bread made from wheat flour.
- Thukpa – water and wheat flour made into noodles and dropped into boiling water and then served with a flavoured meat sauce.
- Gugur Chai– salt tea, made from green tea, salt, soda from the Nubra valley, butter and milk.
- Curd– made from yak milk.
- Moe Moe– steamed Tsampa dough, usually with meat in the middle like dumplings.
- Gyatug – a dish of long, vermicelli like strips of Tsampa over which minced meat and a flavoured sauce is poured.
- Skir – a hotpot of meat, potatoes, grain and sometimes vegetables.
- Kambir – small round breads, sometimes tasting sweet.
- Holkur – Ladakhi biscuit made of sugar, nuts and grain meal. Normally baked by the host himself to be served to the patrons.
Chang – The Local Beer
Beware of the effects of the native beer – Chang. High altitude and too much alcohol do not mix well! Nevertheless one should try some of this local alcoholic beverage. One should also try Chang in a village at some stage, as it usually tastes much better. Chang is a beer, home brewed from barley and millet partially seasoned by the addition of pepper and sugar. It is not filtered before serving so dregs and grains are found ‘swimming’ in the liquid. In short, Chang is a most unusual pleasure for the palate. In Ladakh one finds, as in the other Himalayan states with a population, which belongs to the Tibetan group, no manufacture of spirit liquors.
Some good restaurants in Leh are:
- Shangri La –offers Korean cuisine
- Himalaya Café – for good Tibetan fare
- Penguin Bar and Restaurant – has a German Bakery with a wide choice of baked goods.
- Mentokling Restaurant – offers pizzas cooked over a traditional wood-fired oven
- Pumpernickel German Bakery –offers lasagna and a fixed-price breakfast, as well as picnic meals.
- Dreamland Restaurant – offers Tibetan, Kashmiri, Indian and Italian food.
- Budshah Inn – offers Chinese and Kashmiri cuisine
Restaurants in Ladakh offer many kinds of cuisine including Tibetan, Korean, Chinese, and Western dishes.