The dietary-culture of this region is mostly reflected in the pattern of food production. Depending on the altitudinal variation, finger millet, wheat, buckwheat, barley, vegetable, potato, soybeans, etc. are grown. Some of the common traditional cuisine with their food recipes has been presented for introduction of dietary culture of the Sikkim Himalayas, as well as for product diversification.
Momo, steamed dumpling prepared from wheat flour and meat/vegetable is very common Tibetan food. Momo has already entered commercial production and is well placed in menus of all local hotels/restaurant.
Thukpa/Gya-thuk is a typical Tibetan style noodles in soup. Thukpa/Gya-thuk is very popular local cuisine also available in all restaurants and hotels of these regions.
Kinema is a traditional fermented soybean food having characteristic stringy property with unique flavour, commonly consume as a main side-dish curry served as meat substitute along with cooked rice in meals. Kinema serves as an inexpensive high source of plant protein food in the local diet. The word Kinema might have originated from the Limbu (one of the major castes of the Nepalis) dialect Kinambaa, Ki meaning fermented, nambaa means flavour.
Gundruk & Sinki
Gundruk and Sinki are traditional fermented vegetable products prepared during winter when fresh perishable vegetable is plenty. Gundruk is a fermented product of leafy vegetable such as rayo sag (Brasicca rapa spp. campestris variety cuneifolia), leaves of mustard, radish and cauliflower. Sinki is prepared from radish tap root only. The quality attributes to Gundruk and Sinki basically depends upon the typical flavour and sour-acidic taste which is developed during natural fermentation by lactic acid bacteria, mainly spp. of Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. Gundruk and Sinki are sun dried after fermentation and stored for consumption. Due to high content of organic acid and low pH, these products can be preserved for a year or more. This is a good example of biopreservation of perishable vegetable. Gundruk and Sinki are good appetizers due to high content of lactic and acetic acid developed during fermentation.
Chhurpi is a fermented dairy product prepared from cow milk. Chhurpi is a traditional cottage cheese which gives a texture of a white soft mass with mild sour taste. It is fermented by spp. of lactic acid bacteria. Average consumption of Chhurpi is 9.9.g/capita/day with annual production of 1469 ton in Sikkim.
Chhurpi - Ningro (wild edible fern) Curry
The people of the Sikkim Himalayas eat many varieties of wild ferns commonly grown in these regions. Some of the common edible ferns are Diplazium polypodiodes locally called "sauney ningro", iplazium spp. "kali ningro", etc. Recipe of wild fern is unique in these regions which is mostly mixed with Chhurpi to taste. Ningro, an alpine fiddle-head fern and its tendrils when sauted with Churpi( form of cheese) makes an irresistible dish. Normally it is not served in the restaurants but is prepared as a household dish.
Mesu is a traditional fermented bamboo shoot product with sour-acidic taste eaten as pickle. In the Limbu dialect, me means young bamboo shoot and su means sour, the word Mesu is directly derived from the Limbu dialect. Young bamboo shoots are fermented under natural anaerobic condition for 7-15 days, initiated by spp. of Lactobacillus and Pediococcus to get Mesu. It has high content of organic acid and low pH with rich mineral contents.
Tama Tama is a non-fermented bamboo shoot product. Some varieties of bamboo shoots commonly grown in the Sikkim Himalayas are Dendrocalamus hamiltonii, Dendrocalamus sikkimensis and Bambusa tulda locally known as 'choya bans', 'bhalu bans' and 'karati bans', respectively are edible when young. These bamboo shoots are collected, defoliated and boiled in water with turmeric powder for 10-15 min to remove bitter taste of bamboo. Tama is ready for consumption. Tama is commonly sold in the local markets during the months of June to September when young bamboo shoots sprout.
Widely prepared during Nepali festivals, Saelroti is normally eaten with potato curry or non-vegetarian dish. Normally not available in restaurants but Saelroti is prepared from well-mixed fermented rice batter which is deep fried, ring-shaped, spongy, pretzel-like product commonly consume as confectionery bread in festival and special occasions. The batter is fermented by spp. of yeasts and lactic acid bacteria.