We enjoyed local food on Gangtok’s M.G. Marg yesterday and did some sightseeing as well. The Day 2 in Gangtok is interesting as well. It includes a waterfall, visit to a vegetable market, traditional food and a lot more. Hello friends! Welcome to Visa2explore! This is your host, Harish Bali. We are going to begin our Day 2 of Gangtok, Sikkim journey with this visit to the Bakthang Waterfall. It is 7 am Look at the view of this waterfall, worth watching! Right now and I feel like doing nothing else except sit here on a chair and enjoy a cup of tea. This is going to be an amazing time sitting here. The weather is cloudy right now and, thus, the visibility is low. One reason is that it is early morning and, otherwise too, it is monsoon season, thus, so many clouds. We have been enjoying this waterfall for the past half an hour. Now we are on our way to the Tashi viewpoint, which is 2 kms away. Wow!! What a beautiful scenery! Though, we cannot see the mountains far away because of the cloudy weather but even watching these clouds glide away in the sky is an amazing experience in itself. It is mesmerizing to watch these clouds so close to ourselves. This viewpoint is famous for watching the world-famous Kanchenjunga peak, which is clearly visible during the months of September and October. Monsoon season is not the right time to view the peak, however. Otherwise, very good tourist spot! You should visit here when you come to Gangtok. I will spend another 10-15 minutes here before heading down towards a dhaba to eat something. Host: “Hello Sir, will I get Thukpa?” Shopkeeper: “Yes Sir. It is a good local dish. You will get Thukpa here.” Host: “Please give me one bowl of veg Thukpa.” Shopkeeper: “Sure Sir. Try one bowl. If you like it you can order more!” (Host laughing) The first difference that I am able to identify inside this Thukpa recipe is that it has ghee in it. This bowl has at least half a teaspoon of ghee in it. You can look at this ghee in this close up. Look at the shape of these noodles. There is lots of cabbage, carrots, and beans in this dish. Good! The real game-changer in a Thukpa is its soup. If the vegetable broth or soup is tasty, it improves the overall taste of the dish. This one is also good. The soup is nice. Another difference that I noticed here is that along with noodles, they also added pieces of Aloo Dum to the bowl before pouring soup over it. So, I was surprised to see Aloo Dum in the Thukpa. I was not aware that Thukpa could be made this way as well. Look at this bite of potato here. After finishing this Thukpa, we are going to leave for M.G. Marg in Gangtok. There is a vegetable market called Lal Bazaar there, which opens at 7.30 am, I’ve been told. I want to visit this market and see for myself the variety of local vegetables available. This market is called Lal Bazaar as well as Kanchenjunga Shopping Plaza. The vegetable market it at its ground floor. This is soybean. Host: “This is fermented, right? So how long do you ferment it for?” Woman: “For 3-4 days.” Host: “For 3-4 days.” Host: “Will you please tell me about a few vegetable varieties? Is this laal (red) saag (greens)?” Woman: “Yes, it is laal saag. This is sisnu (another type of greens), it is used in dal.” This is Ningroo This, I’ve been told, is Chhurpi, made with yak milk. It is similar to cottage cheese or paneer. Woman: “It is hard.” Host: “It is hard to eat. So, it is eaten like a toffee?” Woman: “Yes. Just like supari.” Host: “So, how much will we take to chew it.” Woman: “It might take an hour for you to chew it. We take lesser time.” This is too hard. It feels like it is going to stay in my mouth for sometime. Woman: “This is smaller bamboo root. This is bigger bamboo root.” Host: “Okay. This is bamboo root.” Woman: “Yes. This is called Poreng. This is called Baans (bamboo).” Woman: “this is called Iskoos. This is Nepali vegetable. This is Kaakra.” Host: “what is the name of this vegetable?” Man: “Chathela.” Host: “Chathela! And what about the one in the corner?” Man: “Kundri.” Host: “Kundri!” I am wondering whether Iskoos or Chow-Chow are the same vegetable. I had seen Chow-Chow in Chennai but I am not sure whether this is correct or not. In Gangtok, we are staying at the Summit Denzong Hotel & Spa. This hotel is situated at a walking distance of 5-7 minutes from the M.G. Road. Since it is off-season, we had to pay a tariff of Rs. 3300/-. During the peak season, the tariff even goes up to Rs. 5000/-. Tariff is inclusive of breakfast. Talking of room service, I was very satisfied with the prompt response of the staff. The best part for me was that the staff here is very friendly. The hotel is also conveniently located, since it is close to M.G. Marg. Overall, I enjoyed my stay at this hotel. It has not been an hour since I started chewing this piece of Chhurpi and it is still the same. I think it will take me 5-6 hours to finish this off. Right now, the weather here at M.G. Marg is pleasant. The sun is shining bright. People are enjoying while sitting on the benches. The weather is enjoyable. I am looking for an option in traditional food around here. I am here to eat some traditional food. I have with me Mr. Hemant, who owns this restaurant. From what I’ve understood from him, before I start my food, I am going to taste this dish made of sisloo first. Earlier, I saw the sisloo leaves in the vegetable market too. This dish is made with those leaves and is called Sisloo ki dal. It has a sticky texture and taste. Hemant: “Like bhindi (lady finger or okra).” Host: “Yes.” Closest example of this vegetable would be bhindi. This is another dry vegetable with chhurpi inside. We had seen chhurpi as well in the vegetable market. I liked its taste better. This green vegetable dish is Rayo ka saag (mustard greens). It is a very simple preparation, no spices at all in it. It is just the greens, tempered with garlic and salt, that’s it. Simplicity at its peak! The same mustard greens, fermented for 15-20 days, are cooked like this dish called gundru. All the food that I am eating right now is grown organically. The taste is different but delicious. One thing that I’ve noticed after coming here is that the local, traditional food is very simple. None of these dishes have heavy spices in it. Same thing applies to the lentils (dal) as well as all the vegetables that I ate here. The mutton has been cooked very nicely. It has spices in it, of course, light spices but the taste is a bit different. Hemant: “This mutton comes from the Khasi, pure male goat, found around here. It is a healthy animal with a lot of fat in its body.” Host: “So, the taste is different because this mutton is cooked along with its skin and fat.” Hemant: “Yes, that is why.” Let me have some of this chutney too. Basically, this is powdered soybean. Hemant: “It is called Batmas here.” Good, enjoyable food! I am happy that today I enjoyed some of the vegetables for the first time in my life. This shows that there are so many varieties of food available within India, which I’ve not even tried yet. I am just talking about myself here. Host: “It was good for me to come here and explore this kind of food. It was a good experience for me.” Hemant: “Thank you!” Host: “One chicken stew in hot pepper sauce, boneless! And one Tingmog (steamed buns).” This preparation of chicken looks very inviting, especially with this bun! The typical impression about a bun is that it would be baked. Let me first dip this piece of bun in this gravy. Hmmm! This steamed bun makes for an amazing combination with this dish. The first thing that I noticed after eating two bites of this dish is that you need to be able to enjoy schezwan cooking in order to enjoy a dish like this. And this dish has schezwan mix of spices at a higher level. Apart from the spices, I think this dish also has the Sichuan pepper in it too. The flavor of that pepper is over-riding all other flavors in this dish. Chicken is soft and tender. This is my second experience eating this particular peppercorn in a Schezwan dish. Therefore, I have an idea about the feeling of numbness that comes with eating this pepper. The bottomline remains that if you enjoy Schezwan cooking, you would enjoy this dish as well. I had asked them to show me the Sichuan pepper in its raw form, so here it is. I had tried a bit of this once quite long ago. But still I would like to have this again once more. Within 3-4 seconds of eating it, there is a feeling of numbness inside the mouth and on the tongue. Right now, my tongue is also numb but there is a feeling of eating something related to Schezwan. This Sichuan pepper also has oil in it. Right now, what is going on inside my mind is that I need to take official approval for a visit to North Sikkim. I am talking about Lachen and Lachung and also about Nathu La and Changu Lake as well. To go to these places you need to attain approval from the following – tourism department, home ministry, Army, etc. So, I am hopeful that today, my work will be done. After this lunch, I am going to approach the Home department and see that our permission comes in an hour or two, because tomorrow we need to leave for the North. I am talking about permission for videography. Right now, I am 16 kms away from Gangtok, at the Bustee Village Farm House. The primary purpose of coming here is to eat traditional food. On reaching here, I came to know that they also do organic farming. They also have hut accommodations, where people come and spend time. The tariff per hut is Rs. 3400/- and it includes breakfast. Since it is about to get dark, I cannot see much of the farm, but I could see the peach trees right in front. If I had come during the afternoon, or even early evening, I could have seen the farm better. Now, let me go in and check what they are cooking today and how they are cooking it. Today’s dinner is a pleasant surprise for me. All the four dishes that I am seeing here have been cooked especially for me because we had specifically requested for a traditional meal. This is the first time, I am seeing this kind of food. Let us start with this soup. This soup is called Simraya and it is also known as “Jalkumbhi (watercress).” Wherever there is water, especially in the hills, this vegetable is found to grow there. Villagers love to cook this along with any meat dish or as a vegetable on its own. You can eat it as a soup or mix it with your rice. The overriding flavor in this dish is clearly that of garlic, at a mild level, but tasty. This soup tasted delicious on its own and is yummy with the rice as well. This dish is called Emma Dachi. I saw it being cooked. Along with onion and tomatoes, they added a local chili to it as well as 3 cheese slices to it. If someone is not aware, he may link the texture or look of this dish to that of pasta. Now, this dish is nothing more than a layer of cheese on vegetables, but carries an amazing flavor. I feel like I should keep on eating these onion slices covered in cheese and nothing else. Very well made, good recipe! This is watercress that I was talking about, while having the soup made with it. This preparation is called chicken Choila. First of all, just take a good look at its texture, how inviting it is. And here is a dried red chili on top. If I say that this is the first time I have experienced this kind of taste in a chicken dish, I won’t be wrong. This dish uses mustard oil in the marinade for chicken pieces as well as in the cooking. Therefore the mustard oil flavor is overriding the dish. The ginger-garlic paste used in this dish is also too good. I just feel like having a couple of bites more before talking to you about it. I am so happy to be having this food. This dish is called Gorkhey Achar. This preparation is made with something as simple as onion and tomatoes but topped with mustard oil. They suggested that I should eat Dachi mixed with rice as well as I would enjoy it. I’ve had a unique meal today. You can say beyond my imagination. Absolutely good taste! Actually I couldn’t imagine that this would taste so good even with rice. I was limited by my idea of mixing only the watercress soup with rice, but it was good that I tried other dishes with rice as well. I came here with a small time frame of 45 minutes to spend. I assumed that the dish would be ready in 30 minutes and I would finish my meal in 15 minutes. On coming here, I came to know that they have a chulha (hearth) here. They said if I could come back with 2-3 hours to spend, they would cook me food on a chulha. They claimed that that meal would be even tastier than the one I am having today. Unfortunately, I cannot do anything about that because of shortage of time. Let me know what you think of this episode. I will look forward to your comments. Tomorrow we plan to go to Changu Lake & Baba Temple, for which we’ve attained the official permission. That journey will come to you in a separate episode. That’s it. Thanks for your time!