At the culinary demonstration conducted by Chef Nilza Wangmo in Bengaluru, I was reminded of an interaction I had with MasterChef Gary Mehigan earlier this month. While talking about India’s diverse cuisines, he had implied how uninformed Indians are about the variety of Indian cuisine. Having travelled the length and breadth of the country, he had come to the conclusion that people in South India are unaware of a lot of the dishes in the north and vice-versa.
This masterclass, by the chef from Ladakh, furthered that belief. The authentic Ladakhi cuisine showcased by Chef Wangmo ahead of the five-day pop-up at THE Park in MG Road took all of us participants by surprise. For most of us didn’t know how diverse the dishes up in the hills were from what we normally have down south.
During the two-hour interactive session, the chef demonstrated how to prepare Chhutagi – a pasta dish in rich vegetable sauce, Trimsthuk – hand rolled noodles in vegetable sauce and Mok Mok — steamed momos.
Ladakhi cuisine is a magnetic fusion of Tibetan, Indian, and Central Asian flavors. Each dish symbolises a story of tradition, resilience, and adaptability in this terrain. From hearty stews and soups to delicious dumplings and aromatic teas, Ladakhi cuisine reflects the true diversity of the region and culture.
The food they make at home has ingredients that are seasonal, we learned. They know how to make do with what is available. The dishes we tried at the pop-up’s preview, while very minimalistic in approach, were wholesome and flavourful.
“These dishes are very different from what the South Indian palette is used to. All the dishes are simple yet flavourful. In the south, people are used to putting a lot of masalas and ingredients in their dishes,” said Chef Wangmo.
Most of the main dishes are atta based — be it their breads or noodles. There’s ample usage of vegetables and some amount of cheese and butter in the making of the stew. Besides, fruits make an important ingredient in their dishes. Even in the Pualo, you’ll find mulberries and apricots, we learned.
For the non-veg dishes, the commonly used meat is lamb, Chef Wangmo tells South First.
“We don’t have chicken in Ladakh. Now it’s slowly coming up as the younger generation eat chicken. Traditionally, we eat Yak meat, and Dzo (a hybrid between Yak and domestic cattle). Commonly, we use lamb and mutton,” shares Chef Wangmo, adding that she brought down the cheese, apricots, black and green peas, barley, and whole wheat to the city for the pop-up.
The alternatives you get here are very different, she adds.
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We first try the Driftwood Dusk Supari mocktail. The drink, which was on the sweeter side, has Ladakhi Supari as the main ingredient.
The Mok Mok (dumplings) we had for starters came in both vegetarian and non-veg variants. While the former had a filling of carrots, cabbage, spring onion, paneer and bell pepper, the latter came with a filling of succulent minced mutton.
The Chhutagi that followed is the Ladakhi version of pasta. Made in the shape of a bow tie, the wheat flour pasta comes with a thick soup of carrot, cauliflower, spinach and potatoes. A warm bowl of hugs.
We then try Trimsthuk – handolled noodles made of whole wheat flour. It’s then cooked in vegetable stock made of radish, carrots, softened Yak cheese, mountain peas, caraway seeds and chives.
There was also the signature dish, Khambir, which is a fermented Ladakhi bread normally eaten with butter tea. Wangmo’s innovation here is Khambir stuffed with seekh kabab (vegetable stuffing for vegetarians).
“This fusion appeals to the younger generation,” she said.
Her other specialties include dishes like Skyu (similar to orecchiette pasta), saffron paneer for dessert, apricot yogurt, yak cheesecake, and Yarkhandi pulao with apricots. For dessert, there is saffron mok mok, and apricot soaked in rum — a must try!
THE Park Bangalore x Alchi Kitchen pop-up is on till 10 December at Monsoon.