Eating My Way Through Gangtok!

I am a momo (a popular local dish very similar to a dumpling) lover and couldn’t wait to get to Sikkim to feast on it to my heart’s content. While you do find momos in Bombay, they are mostly available at food courts in malls, standalone carts in some parts of the city or in a few Oriental restaurants.

In Sikkim if you throw a stone out of your window its very likely to fall into someone’s plate of momos! The small eateries that you drive past from Bagdogra on the way to Gangtok serve momos along with standard fare of roti, dal (lentils) and subzi (vegetables). In the city, almost every small restaurant serves momos. Even Maharaja – a vegetarian eatery on M G Marg, serves momos and chowmein (noodles) along with samosas, kachoris, parathas and a variety of Indian sweets. The samosas were served with a aloo subzi (potato curry) which made for an interesting combination.
Our simple but hearty lunch en route to Gangtok
Samosas with subzi
Chowmein – another local favourite
A local favorite momos require only a few ingredients but a lot of skill goes into making them perfect. For one vegetarian momos primarily have cabbage, which needs to be chopped very finely. On our way back from Rumtek Monastery we stopped at a small makeshift tea stall for a cup of chai (tea). Along with chai, Maggi (packaged instant noodles), pakodas and momos were available. The owner of the stall along with her helpers were busy getting a new batch of momos ready and we got to see first hand the way they chopped the cabbage and it definitely looked like it needed a lot of practice to get it right!
Influences of neighboring state West Bengal are evident as jhaal muri (a tangy snack made of puffed rice, peanuts and a variety of other ingredients) is popular with the locals in Sikkim too.
A Jhaal Muri vendor does brisk business outside Rumtek Monastery
Gangtok has some fantastic cafes that offer good food with spectacular views. In Baker’s Cafe on M G Marg you can either choose to sit overlooking the street watching locals and tourists walk about or sit on the other side and enjoy your hot chai as the clouds shroud the mountains. The Coffee Shop located further down M G Marg is a great place to sit and observe the locals as they unwind with friends and family. I enjoyed the mixed nuts and yak butter muffins available there. Yak butter has a very distinct flavor.
Coffee with mixed nuts and yak butter muffin at the Coffee Shop
But the real treasure is Bookman’s Cafe. Located in the Development Area, which is a 10 minute walk from M G Marg, the cafe cum bookshop is a great place to unwind in the city. Their collection of books, particularly children’s books was enviable.
Sikkim is primarily a meat eating state but I was still hoping to find local food besides momos and chowmein that was vegetarian. The highlight of my trip was the early dinner that I enjoyed at 9’INE Native. Located opposite the Coffee Shop, it took me a while to locate this restaurant and when I finally did, it was shut. The next day I dropped by just before lunch and met the very friendly owner who promised to wait for me that evening. He asked me to come by 5:30 in the evening as by then they are pretty much sold out. I was very unsure about ordering a full vegetarian set meal and having dinner that early, but luckily the meal didn’t disappoint one bit! The food was different, interesting and delicious.
I ordered a Sikkimese native meal that comprised of steamed rice, Gundruk, Kinema, MaaChoo, a vegetable curry and salad. I am honestly quite an apprehensive vegetarian, especially when I am trying food that’s traditionally not vegetarian. My first course was Gundruk – a soup made of fermented leaves of mustard, radish and cauliflower. The first sip that laid the foundation for the whole meal was fantastic. The clear soup with fermented leaves and chunks of tomato had a sharp, sour taste and was perfect for the weather.
Next I was advised to serve myself some rice and pour onto it a little helping MaaChoo or cottage cheese cooked with butter and eggs. Once the butter mixture melted, I added some Kinema, fermented soybean to it. The crunchy pieces of soybean had a lovely smoked flavor to it. Tsherin the owner insisted that I try some Gundruk with rice and assured me that it would be completely different from just having the soup as is.
My meal also included a cucumber, radish and cheese salad as well as a mixed vegetable curry. The curry was wholesome and simply fabulous. As I fed myself spoonfuls I could almost feel myself smile, the entire experience had been so marvelous.


  • Reply
    Sreesha Divakaran
    May 11, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Lovely pictures! Everything looks yummy…
    Not a big fan of momos, but what do I know! I've only had the malls/cart variety :(

  • Reply
    Alok singhal
    May 11, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    You've aroused my taste buds, which are always ready to pop-up, me being a big time foodie. Great write-up and equally amazing pictures!

  • Reply
    Chaitali Patel
    May 12, 2015 at 3:56 am

    Thanks Sreesha!

  • Reply
    Chaitali Patel
    May 12, 2015 at 3:57 am

    Thanks Alok… Happy to have reached out to the foodie in you!

  • Reply
    May 12, 2015 at 8:10 am

    OMG! Chaitali I somehow want to eat the post. I am forgetting to read. 😛 :)

  • Reply
    Chaitali Patel
    May 12, 2015 at 9:33 am

    :) :) :)

  • Reply
    May 12, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Mouth watering pictures! Waiting to see more of Sikkim through your eyes!

  • Reply
    May 14, 2015 at 4:48 am

    Good for you that you managed to taste local food – these days, everything has become so pizza-pastafied! I was lucky enough to have the lady at the guest-house we were staying in, cook a Sikkim dinner for us (along with chang). You can read it on my blog :)

  • Reply
    Chaitali Patel
    May 14, 2015 at 6:37 am

    It really was the highlight of my trip! Such a satisfying meal! I am going to read about your Sikkimese dinner now :)

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