I was staying at this beautiful property called The Bamboo Retreat
which is located in Rumtek and is a 45 minute drive from the heart of Gangtok city. The property is set amidst lush paddy fields and herb and vegetable gardens, the produce of which is used to prepare fresh meals in the hotel kitchen. Hospitality, location and service apart, the food here was absolutely fantastic. This now brings me back to the Lepcha spread that I had here.
Dining area at The Bamboo Retreat
After a long and adventurous day at Natu La and Tsongmo, I headed back to the hotel thinking of the Lepcha food that I was going to try. Before dinner was laid out, I was given a tumbler of Chi. Chi is a local brew made out of fermented millet and hot water! The drink is served in bamboo tumblers and is to be sipped through thin bamboo straws. Not something that you would instantly like considering its actually hot beer, but its worth a shot and who knows, the taste might just grow on you!
Chi (Millet Beer)
Two tumblers of Chi down, I got ready for a spread of a lifetime that consited of the following dishes:
Gundruk – A soup made out of fermented mustard leaves. While it may not sound appetizing, believe me it was more than that. Light and delicious, I loved the tangy taste.
Then came in an array of dishes each better than the other.
Phapar – Buckwheat rolls filled with seasoned mustard leaves, these delectable little rolls made for a perfect starter. Not necessary that the be stuffed with mustard leaves, any other seasonal vegetable can be used as well. The rolls were served with a spicy green chili and garlic chutney.
Iskus Munta – A dry vegetarian dish made with season squash leaves. Tasted good and seemed perfectly healthy. I love having green vegetables and hadn’t ever tried any squash leaf preparation before, for the first time, I would say this was pretty tasty.
Sauteed Bamboo Shoots - While I have had bamboo shoot in some pan asian preparations, this was the first time I had a dish where it was the core ingredient. Freshly plucked from the vegetable garden in the hotel property, this was soft, juicy and tender and tasted almost like mushrooms. a simple seasoning of Indian spices is all it took to turn this into one of my favorite dishes from the spread.
Ningro Churpi- Now this one is pretty interesting, its basically wild fern with Churpi (cheese). I had no idea that ferns form an integral part of Sikkimese cuisine. This preparation was by far the top pick from the entire menu. The fern wonderfully blended with the cheese and tasted incredible. I wish I could get this somewhere apart from Sikkim too.
Pahadi Mutton Curry- Very similar to the eastern style of mutton curry, maybe a few different spices but tastewise it was brilliant.
Phing Mushroom – A preparation of glass noodles with wild mushrooms.
All of the food was served with dal, red rice and chapattis.
Authentic Lepcha spread
All in all I would definitely rate this as a perfect 10 meal especially since I tried an all new cuisine and didn’t really dislike a single item on the menu! If you are ever traveling to Sikkim, do go for a traditional Lepcha meal at The Bamboo Retreat, you wont regret it!