Darjeeling is a land of great romanticism with the rolling green hills adorned by combed tea-plantations, glorious sunsets and soulful solitary walks down to Darjeeling’s local market places. As soon as you reach the market you will be greeted with a sight of fresh line-up of produce despite the chilly weather. Sweet pineapples from Siliguri, tangy oranges, the best servings of tea with a side fresh baked biscuits at local cafes topped with an excellent view of the hills!
The hills are the perfect places for all lovers of nature and art as there is nothing more inspiring than a sublime weather, where every breath you speak turns into puffs of fluffy clouds. The walks are coupled with snug hand-holding or if you are alone then warmly placed in mittens or in your solo aloof pockets! The weather is perfect for munching on steamy momos and thupka and amidst many of Darjeeling’s hilly alleyways, will you find scores of picturesque little shops sampling them in large quantities for the masses.
This popular hill station is frequented by a lot of tourists from the rest of West Bengal as well as from other states and foreign countries. So, the local cuisine here has a harmonious blend of Bengali cuisine mixed with Tibetan flavors. However, one can hope to find all sorts of cuisines to eat here in Darjeeling’s numerous cute restaurants and cafes like – Tandoori, North Indian, South Indian, Naga, Nepali, Chinese and Continental.
While Darjeeling is the perfect melting pot of flavors, still the finest and freshest ingredient to sample in the hills are the fragrant and flavorful Darjeeling Tea known all over the world. Whether a teetotaler or not, one must indulge in some of this lavishly flavored beverage; other items to try in Darjeeling include – Aloo Dum, Naga Platter, Saei Roti, Nepali Thali, Thupka and Momos, Tongba and Channg etc.
Trying the local cuisine will definitely add dimension to your trip to Darjeeling as the native dishes are a mix of several different cuisine types. The original natives of Darjeeling are the Lepchas who still inhabit some parts of the land, the majority of the populations are the Gorkhas or immigrants from Nepal, a few Tibetans also live here who are, Sherpas and many Bengalis also live in the hill station. Thus, the local food habit reflects this melting-pot of diverse flavors.
The staples here are usually, noodles, rice, and potatoes. The cuisine here is mildly spiced and starkly different from the rest of the country. Almost no coconut or tamarind is used here which, is a common scene in the southern parts of the country. However, despite the conservative uses of spices an reliance on the natural flavors of the foods, the chutneys served with momos and other local items are famous for their heat and are not for the faint-hearted.
Interesting Dishes that are a must try in Darjeeling:
Dalle (Special Darjeeling Spicy Pickles)
For those with a love for hot chili flavors, this is a must try. Prepared with red round chili, mustard oil, spices and salt and usually pickled with vinegar, these pickles are sold in glass bottles and appear as firey balls of red suspended in a reddish sauce. Note that they are firey hot, but equally satisfying and the super hot chutneys served with momos and thupka are usually made with this Dalle pickles.
Authentic Naga dishes are found almost everywhere in Darjeeling as there are a small number of Naga ancestry which brought the flavors of their land to this city. This Naga Platter or Thali usually consists of rice, dried or fermented bamboo shoots, served with a choice of chicken dish or fish or pork, a side of Ghee (clarified butter) and pickles.
Note that the fermented bamboo shoots come with a distinct odor and flavor and may not be for everyone, but if you truly enjoy trying out new tastes then it is definitely worth a try. The Naga Platter is a popular pick amongst the tourists of Darjeeling.
Kakra ko Achar and Kinema
Another variety of pickles and a local favorite amongst the Nepali population, this dish says it in the name! Achar translates to pickle. Kakra ko achar is prepared with julienned cucumbers and is more of a spicy salad than pickle. The main ingredients include long strips of cucumber, sesame seeds, garlic, green chilies and salt to taste. Kinema is a pickle of fermented soyabeans.
Closely resembling the Bengali counterpart, the Nepali Thali consists of a full meal served on a plate that includes several items like – dal (lentil soup), boiled rice (bhaat), tarkari (mixed seasonal vegetables), achaar (pickles) or chutney, papad, curd and a sweet. One can choose to compliment this with a choice of chicken or any other meat dish, usually in the form of a curry. While the dishes are almost similar to the quintessential Bengali meal, the use of spices varies mildly and adds a different flavor to the dishes.
Many Bengalis have come to settle at Darjeeling bearing close proximity to their native towns, especially from Siliguri. So, many local restaurants serve sumptuous full Bengali thalis here. They are almost similar to the previously discussed Nepali thalis, but usually include three courses of assortments, the last of which is either a fish dish or a meat curry depending on your choice.
A few other items one must try in Darjeeling include:
- Churpee – a milk-based snack made from cow’s milk or yak’s milk. It’s a cheese found in both soft and hard form. They are healthy snacks and are usually served with Niguru.
- Saphalay – Tibetan stuffed bread with meat. Can be eaten with curries or chutney or vegetables.
- Sael Rotis – usually not found in restaurants or eateries, a delicacy of Nepal usually made at home on special occasions is flat bread made with rice flour and then deep fried. Served with butter or cheese or chutney.
- Tongba – is a local brew of beer, prepared from fermented millets and yeast. Usually contains almost no alcohol but can be mildly intoxicating in large quantities.
Apart from the above mentioned dishes, also give Darjeeling oranges a try as they are famous for being the sweetest kind.
Also Read : Top Tourist Spots To Visit In West Bengal
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