The Lehperson’s Guide To Eateries
(fr. Travels Through My Stomach)
I’ve been asked innumerable times by newcomers, “Where is a good place to eat in Leh?”
This is usually asked at a meal time before the menu has even been scanned or before the current edition of Lonely Planet has been re-perused.
One place this question is never asked is in Dreamland. It’s aptly named because for most travellers it remains just that – an unattainable dreamland. Such is its popularity that people queue to effect an entrance. Once in and seated at one of the six tables, each with up to five places, the service is prompt, the food is differently tasty and the meal cannot be over-prolonged as there is an increasingly hungry crowd waiting to take your place.
This is the one restaurant which all travellers would like to see expanded. But then could the Tibetan sister continue to provide their excellent cuisine to the same standard? Not unless there are more siblings waiting in the wings to wait at table or work in the kitchen.
My favourite dish is tomato egg drop soup, a concoction with fresh ingredients which tastes even better as the level is lowered.
Dreamland is also a popular breakfast haunt. I did somewhat resent the two young English lads betwixt school and university, who liberally smeared Marmite instead of the local apricot jam on their Tibetan bread. They didn’t even share it with we fellow Brits!
On the other side of the road and upstairs by the back staircase, which is shared unbanistered and unparapetted with the Indian Airlines office, is the Snow Lion, formerly Om. Similarly Tibetan in cuisine to Dreamland, with cheese momos (dumplings), chow meins and chop sueys, albeit at a slightly higher price. Reputedly the food is cooked to a good standard. I say reputedly because the service can be slow beyond belief so I’ve only eaten there once. On that single occasion, the three of us managed to wait four – yes four – hours during which time two pairs of friends came separately, sat at our table, ordered, ate and then left before our meals finally arrived.
Image fr. here (Note: there was no any alcoholic beer in Ladakh when I was there.)
I’ve seen similar, albeit shorter, delays at the Kangri. Dim and dingy, situated in the Main Bazaar opposite the Post Office, the saving grace is the cheese slant given to the food: cheese omelettes, veg and cheese momos – fried or steamed. Only processed cheese is available in Leh, but as a memory of tangy tastes available back home, it’s an effective substitute.
It was in the Kangiri that I also discovered what a real chipped cup of coffee is. Swimming in the mixture of hot milk, sugar and Nescafé was a chip. I was lucky: a friend had cabbage tea.