Does one need only a backpack of clothes, a destination and some courage to make travelling an unforgettable experience? Not if McLeod Ganj is your destination. If you happen to believe that food forms a great part of any vacation, just head to McLeod Ganj.
This tourist haven offers a variety of gastronomic delights and you can actually expect to be pampered thoroughly, if not spoilt completely by these indulgences. There are just so many food options in McLeod Ganj, you’ll be spoilt for choice no matter what your preference.
Quick Facts about Food in Mcleod Ganj
Cuisines: McLeod Ganj offers you an astounding cauldron of various cuisines. Many stalls here sell local Tibetan fare, taken right from the kitchens of the indigenous Gaddi tribe – but search a little, and you will find a wide variety – ranging from Kashmiri, Nepali to Italian, Belgian, Israeli, Scottish, Chinese, Bhutanese, Korean and Japanese eateries.
Local produce: The local food uses the region’s best produce, like potatoes, carrots, spinach leaves, radish and fiddlestick ferns. Stalls line the Jogiwara and Bhagsu roads, and Temple Road too. The abundant variety of food items complements the beauty of the scenery and the tranquility of the ambience and goes a long way to make your trip to McLeod Ganj memorable, if not unforgettable.
Food is a morsel of culture, and the following list tries to introduce some of the most popular eatables available at McLeod Ganj, and the eateries where they may be found:
Popular local food items in McLeod Ganj
This noodle soup is perhaps the most comforting bowl of food one may find anywhere. It warms you even on the chilliest day. Thenthuck is a Tibetan-inspired soup, filled with dough, broth and meat. One finds the occasional modern-day vegetarian version as well.
The Thenthuck soup is often made with mutton, and sometimes yak. It is very spicy, and can warm you through, making it a staple for the hill people living here.
Cuisines around the world have their variation of the dumpling, and the Momo belongs to Tibet. This dumpling is found in Nepal and Sikkim, too. The dough is kneaded and filled with vegetables or meat, and steamed. Momos are very similar to Japanese gyozas and Chinese jiaozi.
Nepali and Tibetan diaspora have made the dish popular across the world. Momos are highly flavorful and considered a delicacy of the region. They come with both vegetarian stuffing like potatoes or meats like chicken, mutton and pork.
3. Tibetan Noodles and Breads
Tibet has its own variety of noodles, borrowed from the cuisines of various South-East Asian countries. Made with vegetables or meat, one finds fried noodles – reminiscent of China – or noodle soups, as in Japanese cuisine. The satisfaction found at the bottom of a bowl of noodles is seldom found elsewhere. If a connoisseur or a midnight-ramen enthusiast, find yourself entirely at home.
Tibet also has many unique bread recipes, like the flat-bread from Central Tibet, Balep Korkun. Bread is, for many people, a staple at the dining table. Find a warm, perhaps unfamiliar variety at McLeod Ganj when you visit. Don’t miss out on Lhasa Cookies while you are there.
4. Bok Choy Soup
The Chinese lettuce, Bok Choy – sometimes spelt Pak Choy – is a regular feature of Asian cuisine. Just like lettuce, the whole plant is edible, and it has a cabbage-like, bitter, peppery taste and makes for a great broth. Bok Choy can be prepared in a variety of ways and you will find it in the soups and also added in its raw form to salads.
Scented with aromatics like ginger, and mixed with vegetables and mushrooms, the Bok Choy soup offers a very hearty meal. Enjoy the Bok Choy which is offered in various forms at the eateries in McLeod Ganj.
Thukpa is a noodle soup, originating from the eastern half of Tibet. It can keep you warm in icy weather and is made of hand-made noodles, cooked along with yak meat or mutton and an assortment of greens. Tibetan cuisine is incomplete without momos and thukpa and has traveled to every place where Tibetans have gone to live.
It is extremely simple but highly nutritious, a combination irresistible to anyone looking for a comfort food in cold weather. Many Tibetans consider it a complete meal in itself and not as just another soup. The Nepalese version of the dish, Amdo Thukpa is flavored with spices and chillies. This makes it a local favorite during the colder months.
Best Places to eat local food: Peace Café, Tibet Kitchen, Norling, Clay Oven, Bogdo Café, Tibet Quality Bakery, Tsewang’s Dolma Fried Momos, Mandala Café, Namgyal Café, Indique, Pema Thang Veg Café, Kalimpong Restaurant and Badol Café.
Popular Japanese & Korean foods in McLeod Ganj
A Japanese marvel, sushi is made with fillets of often uncooked fish, wrapped in Japanese seaweed, and garnished with sauces and tiny flecks of sesame and served with specially prepared rice. Sushi is often served with pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce.
Daikon radish is popular as a garnish for a serving of sushi, which is sometimes served with tropical fruits too. You can find and try out this Japanese delicacy in McLeod Ganj.
KimBap is a Korean version of Japanese sushi, made in a similar style. They both use steamed white rice and dried seaweed. There is, however a difference, in that the rice in KimBap is not seasoned with vinegar as in Sushi but cut with sesame oil and made sweeter.
You could try both these foods at McLeod Ganj and pick your own personal favorite to try another time, on another vacation.
Popular Continental Foods in McLeod Ganj
7. Italian food
No one needs an introduction to Italian foods like pizza and pasta, and McLeod Ganj offers an abundance of eateries which dish out these delicacies along with baked desserts. What’s more, these pizzerias offer authentic pizzas which pay attention to the quality and variety of the cheeses used, the texture of the crust formed and the judicious balancing of the garlic flavor as well as the onions and meat used in the topping.
You could even find an authentic wood-fired pizza in McLeod Ganj along with cheese cakes and chocolate truffles. Enjoy great food without stepping out of your comfort zone.
8. Apple Cider
Apple cider is a sweet, non-alcoholic beverage, a variation of apple juice. An eatery in McLeod Ganj sells steaming apple cider by the mugful, meant to warm up the body unaccustomed to cool weather. Popular in the Americas and in Canada, the drink has an alcoholic version, called “hard cider”.
The phytochemicals in apples like phenolics, flavonoids and carotenoids help to bring down the risk from some chronic diseases and improve one’s general health. Definitely makes this worth a try for possible inclusion in your lifestyle later on!
9. Vegan Food
If you are vegan, there is no need to take McLeod Ganj off your itinerary. For the uninitiated, veganism in food is about avoiding all foods derived from animals like meat, eggs and dairy. Veganism is a way of life, and is a choice of people with ethical or environmental concerns and can prove a great challenge when traveling to a new place or country.
McLeod Ganj respects their choice and cares for the traveling vegan too, with Khana Nirvana making sure that vegans are fed and fed exceedingly well on scrumptious fare when they are in McLeod Ganj.
Falafel is a Turkish dish, made of chickpeas or fava beans, occasionally both. Deep fried, they are usually shaped into little round balls, but a doughnut-shaped version is also rumored to exist. Falafel is served alongside a bowl of hummus, another Turkish favorite dip – a chutney of mashed chickpeas, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice.
Falafel can be served as an appetizer or snack, and is considered the perfect street food in Israel, Egypt and other countries of the Middle East. In case you have never tried this delicacy, this is definitely the right time to do so. You’ll be served it at German Bakery as well as Morgan’s Place in McLeod Ganj.
Best Places to Find Global Cuisine: Khana Nirvana, Nick’s Italian Kitchen, Kunga’s, The Crepe Pancake Hut, German Bakery, Hummingbird Café, Shiva Café, Woeser Bakery, Morgan’s Place, Illiterati, Family Planet and Pema Thang Pizzeria.
McLeod Ganj offers a combination of beauty and serenity, that one ardently dreams of when stuck in traffic snarls or endless office meetings on a daily basis. If vacations help to ensure that you do not see a stranger in the mirror, the food eaten on the vacation adds to the sense of relaxation.
Add some adventure to this list and try out these new foods. Do write in and share your experience and also let us know if you wish us to add any other worthy names to our list of eateries/foods above.