In this episode of our Sikkim Food Series, we bring you our food explorations from the verdant and uneven terrains of Dzongu in North Sikkim. After spending a day exploring the food in Gangtok with our sprightly hosts Prerna and Abigail from Our Guest, we headed to the serene and secluded landscapes of Dzongu which is a reserve for the Lepcha tribe. After an adventurous road trip, we arrived at this quaint village called Gyanthang in lower Dzongu to discover their lifestyle, traditions, and customs through the lens of food and to interact with the genial populace who live here in communion with nature.
We are immensely grateful to Kazlan from Munlom Nature Resort (http://www.munlomresort.com/) for hosting us here in Gyathang. This beautiful homestay perched amidst the grandeur of nature is a perfect place to unwind. The peace, tranquility, the flora and fauna all around and the genial locals resulted in such reassuring vibes. The terrains here are rugged but absolutely stunning.
On reaching there we were received by the warm smiles of Kazlan Dorjee, the owner of the homestay, and his cheerful staff. A little later, while showing us around, he elucidated how each and every architectural thing in the property has been constructed with local and sustainably sourced raw materials.
As usual, we were famished from the travel so we soon settled for lunch. It was a simple and typical Lepcha fare that included steamed rice cooked with shredded spinach, potato stir fry, country chicken, Gundruk soup, and the very unique Nakima or edible orchid stir fry. The food was minimalist yet terrific. The freshness and the purity of the ingredients that were organically grown in the farms around the property came through in every bite. With the energy restored in the body, we headed on for a tour of the forested stretch surrounding the homestay.
As we walked through the uneven, lush green terrain, Kalzan briefed us about the flora growing around the place. Dzongu is famous for the Black Cardamom plantation. The organically grown cardamom seeds that we tried straight from the plant had such an intense fragrance. Kalzan then elucidated some important aspects of their traditions and customs. We were truly impressed by the lifestyle of the Lepcha community which exists in harmony with nature.
Next, we moved to explore the local monastery. The place was full of stories of unity, harmony, and fraternity. The simple and colorful architecture was a testimony to collective faith. Soon we arrived at a village household where the family brews the traditional millet beer, Chi. We learned about its making process and carried some of the final product back to the homestay. It was interesting to discover that Chi is a combination of both the fermented millet grains and the liquor extract. The drinking session was peppered with amusing stories of the locals enjoying the drink on a daily basis.
Next, we were in the kitchen to observe the dinner preparation. A traditional Lepcha meal was on its way. We saw how the bamboo pork, Nettle soup, and millet flour pancakes were prepared and that made us very hungry. Soon it was dinner time and what a gratifying meal it was full of vivid flavours.
The next morning Rinchen led us to another homestay for a traditional breakfast of Khuri and chutney. We loved every bit of this yummy wrap made with millet flour-based crepes and a mixture of spinach cooked with coarsely ground mustard although the chilli and tomato chutney that accompanied it was quite hot for our palate. The old lady who prepared the crepes and assemble the wraps was all full of smiles. With great enthusiasm, Richen briefed us about the routine lifestyle of the village community.
This hearty breakfast was followed by an in-house organic wine tasting session at Munlom. Watch the video to discover more about this endearing culinary expedition in Dzongu.