The Lehperson’s Guide To Eateries (concluded)
(fr. Travels Through My Stomach)
Tibetan cuisine predominates in Ladakh and after a while begins to pall: it’s bland with limited ingredients. Barley is the main food crop; it is roasted and ground to become tsampa, and fermented to produce the mildly alcoholic
chang that is a must for all celebrations. It is also eaten with salted yak butter tea called gur-gur. Other crops are apples and apricots (chuli), Ladakh’s only export, some wheat, peas, vegetables and mustard for oil.
As a vegetarian, I should have been satisfied with that, but for variety and added protein I did occasionally eat meat. For just 4/-, carnivores can buy a mutton kebab wrapped in a chappati and spiced with chilli from the street vendor opposite the mosque. We temporarily lapsed vegetarians may consider that the deceased sheep lead a ‘happy’ life, not penned fleece by jowl with other food stock and free from hormone enhanced feed.
Mutton curry is a popular dish in the few Indian style, Kashmiri eateries in town. Rice, dahl and subzi (vegetable curry) can be had for 7/- at the Nepali, in a side alley off the bazaar.
At the far end of the road from the mosque to the Main Bazaar, where in the road running right you may see a cockatoo’d traffic policeman blowing his whistle, turn left and as you enter the back alley which runs parallel with the main street you’ll find the Burman Restaurant. My favourite here is the masala dosa for 3/-
For English tastes, seek vegetable cutlets, fried eggs and finger chips. With tomato ketchup you’ve got a good caff meal, but at English prices. India is cheaper than the UK, but this is Ladakh so transport costs for ‘imports’ make everything more expensive.
If you want to ‘eat local’, try Tibetan Friends off the main market street which serves food based on tsampa, but it’s a lottery as to whether the regular cook is available. If not, rather than perusing the menu, ask what is available and be prepared to be disappointed.
In typing this ‘chapter’ of my travel diaries I went through waves of nostalgia, for the stunning scenery and for the Ladakhis. Researching on the internet for my links highlighted my then expressed fear for the well-being of their communal life-style. It seems that I was right to be worried. I doubt that I will ever return there, but I will continue to revisit online and may add a chapter to this section.
After all, travelling rather than sight-seeing is, in essence, a mental exercise, however arduous the treks may be.
This is a very useful site for information about Ladakh