A Taste of Tibetan Food in Sikkim, India

By Mark Wiens 1 Comment
Tibetan food in Gangtok, India
Tibetan food in Gangtok, India

Before visiting India, I can’t say I had ever eaten Tibetan food.

And when I traveled to India, little did I realize I’d be dining on some traditional Tibetan dishes, but I did! The province of Sikkim is located in Northeastern India in the Himalaya mountains, bordering Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan.

Sikkim is the only province in India where the majority of the population is Nepali and Tibetan. So it feels quite a bit different from mainland North or South India.

After enjoying Tibetan cuisine at a number of restaurants in Gangtok (biggest town in Sikkim), and even at the canteen of the Ranka Tibetan monastery, I decided to try out a popular restaurant known as Taste of Tibet.

Tibetan food
Couldn’t get enough of this stuff!

Tibetan food is a little plain, dishes are often served not overly spicy, salty, or even too much flavor. However, accompanying all tables at every restaurant I visited was a dish of outstanding, and fiery hot, chili sauce.

I couldn’t get enough of the Tibetan style chili sauce!

Fresh hot momo dumplings
Fresh hot momo dumplings

First up were a plate of steaming hot fresh momos, this time filled with chicken. Momos are similar to Chinese jaozi or Korean mandu, they are little dough pockets filled with a choice of ingredients, wrapped up, and either steamed or deep fried.

Though I’d had plenty of momos throughout my travels in Northeastern India and even in Kolkata, these were among the tastiest – especially with that chili sauce.

Tibetan shapale - meat pies
Tibetan shapale – meat pies

Similar to a large-scale deep fried momo, or a samosa, Tibetan shapale are essentially meat pies. The dough is crunchy on the outside and gooey on the interior, and I ordered them filled with minced chicken, onions, and spices.

Like much of the Tibetan food, it wasn’t overly strong in flavor, but after adding some more chili sauce, they were very comforting.

Chicken Chili
Chicken Chili

For main course I tried a number of things, the Chicken Chili being most excellent.

The little bits of chicken were initially deep fried to a serious crisp and then coated in a tangy sweet red sauce while tossed with tomatoes, onions, and chillies. It was really good with rice.

Lamian with sauce
Lamian with sauce

Not sure if this dish is truly Tibetan, but it was on the menu at Taste of Tibet and I decided to order it. The noodles, on the menu, said they were lamian, like those insanely good hand pulled Chinese noodles.

On top of the bed of noodles was a meaty sauce that was tomatoey, and around the outside were a few garnishing vegetables. The bizarre thing was that a few pieces of rice were sprinkled on the very top… decoration? I’m not sure.

Tibetan food
Tibetan thenthuk

After momos and shapale, one of the most famous Tibetan dishes are variations of soup noodles. This particular version known as thenthuk, is homemade style noodles sliced into bite sized pieces.

It was a bit flour-y, but thick and hearty, and I thought it would be a good dish to eat during cold weather – it sort of warmed me internally with the thick soup.

Taste of Tibet, Gangtok, India
Taste of Tibet, Gangtok, India

Now enjoy this video of delicious Tibetan food!

(if you can’t see it, watch it in YouTube here)

Taste of Tibet Restaurant, Gangtok, India

When you’re in Gangtok, head to Taste of Tibet restaurant, located right along the walking street (you can’t miss it). The food is good, and it’s constantly busy.
Prices: Dishes are around 100 INR ($1.85), and this entire meal came to about 500 INR ($9.28).
Open: Noon – 8 pm (or so, as always in India)