Sikkim shares its borders with Tibet, Bhutan, West Bengal and Nepal. If we talk about the geographical size, Sikkim is the second smallest state in India. To reach Gangtok, capital of Sikkim, nearest airport is in Bagdogra and nearest railway station is in New Jalpaiguri. At the time of our journey, the Pakyong airport was under construction. In this journey, we did local sightseeing in Gangtok & explored local food on M.G. Road. We began the Day 1 of our Sikkim tour with a visit to Banjhakri Waterfalls. Hello Friends! Welcome to Visa2explore! This is your host, Harish Bali! Just look at this waterfall behind me. It is so beautiful and just see the speed at which the water is falling. The view is worth it. It is too good! This theme park is absolutely beautiful. We were here at 8 am in the morning. People usually eat their breakfast and then come here to spend time. We did it in reverse. We enjoyed our time here and now we will be going for breakfast. ‘Ban’ means forest and ‘Jakhri’ means healing through supernatural powers. This whole theme park is based on this name. If you come to Gangtok, you should definitely visit here. It is a must-visit tourist destination. Tourists usually start coming in after 10 am everyday. I saw in the cafeteria here, they also serve traditional food but that will take time to prepare since we are before time. The food is still being prepared here but the tea is ready. We have decided to have our breakfast at M.G. Marg. Right now, I am in the most happening space in Gangtok, called M.G. Marg. Marg means road. It is 10 o’clock in the morning and the market is just beginning to open. People are starting to drop in. The weather is cloudy. I am headed for my breakfast. Host: “Sel Roti and Aloo Dum!” Shopkeeper: “Okay!” This is Sel Roti and Aloo Dum. Sel Roti look like jalebi in appearance but unlike jalebi it is not crisp. Sel Roti is prepared with rice flour batter. First rice grains are grounded into coarse flour and the batter is deep fried like jalebi. Too good! Hmmm! What a mindblowing combination! These black seeds that you are seeing, may be confused with black sesame seeds or mustard seeds. But actually these are black cumin seeds. So, I am going to ask them to show me these cumin seeds separately. Here, let me show you the black cumin seeds. As far as I know, this is also called Kalonji in Hindi language. But here, they call it Kala Jeera (black cumin). This cumin has a fragrance too. Trust me, the tempering done with Kala Jeera is adding value to this dish. What a perfect start to the day and an amazing breakfast, this combination. There is a ropeway at a distance of 30 minutes from here. Let us go and enjoy a trolley ride. Host: “Two tickets! Thanks.” We are going on to the ropeway now. The timings are 10 am-12.30 pm and ropeway rides continue again from 1.30 pm-4.30 pm. The ticket is Rs. 117/- per person. As the trolley ride begins and we start gaining altitude, the view down below becomes even more beautiful. The cars on the road look smaller and I can see Gangtok till far away. Only thing is that as we gain altitude, the visibility decreases because of the cloudy weather. The total ride is of 10 min duration. We are not going to get down at the upper stop. We will have to come back by this trolley itself. By the way, it is monsoon season right now, not the best time to visit Gangtok. The best time to come here is either in February-March or October-November. The trolley ride is a fun activity overall. We have come to the Do-drul Chorten monastery. You can see me rotating these wheels. These are prayer wheels, in cylindrical shape, with thousands of mantras written into it. You can ask for a wish while rotating these prayer wheels. You can do as many rounds of these prayer wheels. It is considered good luck to do so. I just noticed that the right way to rotate these wheels is like this, from down below. Doing it like this is wrong. That is what he has explained to me. Host: “What is this?” Monk: “These are butter lamps.” Host: “Diya (lamps in Hindi language)?” Monk: “Diya, yes.” Host: “This door is closed.” (Inaudible) Host: “Thanks.” Monk: “Thuk je che.” Host: “Thuk je che.” Right now, I am at the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. I have with me Mr. Thupten. Host: “Sir, can you please help us understand what this institute is all about?” Thupten: “This Institute was established in 1958. This institute is basically a research institute but we also have a museum where tourists can come seven days a week. They have to buy ticket for entry to the museums. In the museum, they cannot take photos or use cameras but they can see around our display. Then we have a library, which is the third largest collection of Buddhist texts, after (inaudible) in Tokyo. The first largest collection is supposed to be in Leningrad. Our Institute is situated in the midst of a jungle in a serene and calm place.” Host: “Thank you Sir.” Thupten: “Thanks.” Now our next destination is M.G. Marg for lunch, which will be a Nepali thali. I’ve come to eat the Nepali thali at the Hamro Bhansa Ghar on M.G. Marg. This thali looks so appealing and inviting. The food is very simple. This bowl of vegetable looks to be that of potatoes and beans but it has something else too. And its taste is very delicious. But what is that? That I am going to find out from the owner after I finish my meal. Very tasty! Hmm! Rai ka saag (Mustard greens)! Simplicity at its peak! Now this is another avatar of the mustard greens, it is fermented & is known as gundrug. To make gundrug from mustard greens involves a fermentation process that is 15-20 days long. My very first experience with this very famous dish of Sikkim, Gundrug! Tangy flavor but amazing taste! If you want to enjoy a bowl of dal (lentils) better anywhere in India, just add a bit of ghee to it. Mix it in rice, like this, and it would taste heavenly. This here is methi (fenugreek leaves). These leaves are fermented for a day or two till they sprout like this. This is another famous dish of Sikkim. Nice! I’ve been told that this dish is made of Kinema, also known as fermented soybean. Well, I had already come to know from some people that in order to enjoy Kinema, I would need to develop a taste for it. This is a delicacy of Sikkim and Sikkimese like it a lot. So, Kinema – either people like it like crazy or they don’t like it at all. I belong to the latter category because even I didn’t like it. Out of whatever I ate till now, apart from Kinema, everything else is delicious. Now that my meal is over, I am going to have a chat with the owner here. He is showing me the raw form of all the vegetables that were there in my thali. Host: “So, Sir, would you please explain these ingredients?” Owner: “This is green saag, this is what was in that potato curry. This is gundrug. This is the popular kala dal (black lentils) of Sikkim, though it looks like moong dal (Green gram).” Host: “Sir, I enjoyed the Thakali thali at your restaurant.” Owner: “Thank you Sir.” Host: “It was new food and new experience for me.” Owner: “thank you.” Good! It is not possible to split the experiences regarding vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods during the Sikkim journey into separate episodes. This is the reason that you would see both experiences mixed in a single video. At the Taste of Tibet, I’ve ordered two dishes for myself – Chicken Shyaphale & Chicken Thenthuk. There is a popular trend in Gangtok. Wherever you go to eat, generally, you will be served with radish relish (chutney) along with the food. What they have done is they have cut the Shyaphale into 2 pieces. Just like we make samosa with a potato filling inside, they make Shyaphale with minced chicken stuffed inside. Hmmm! Superb! What simplicity of flavors! Amazing! The chicken mince stuffed inside doesn’t have any rich spices in it. In fact, in Gangtok, spices are used at a mild level. Whatever you eat, you will find food to be very, very simple. This radish chutney has a lot of red chili powder in it, as is visible just by looking at it. It is a good combination to eat the Shyaphale with the radish chutney. But I wanted to clarify that this chutney has not a lot of, but more than lot of red chili powder in it. What I mean to say is it is very, very spicy. In fact, you can clearly see even green chilies along with red chilies in it. Super chili! I will finish the rest of Shyaphale 5 minutes later. First let me taste this Thenthuk. The layers that you see on top of it, this is handmade pasta, as was mentioned in the menu. So, this pasta is not made in a machine, but is handmade. This soup is amazingly simple in flavors. Each bite of this layer of pasta is different in taste because of the difference of thickness in each bite. So, uneven sizes, nice taste! The chicken pieces are added to it in shredded form. Hmmm! Very soft, very tender! To come here and enjoy these two dishes was an amazing experience for me. My first day is over in Gangtok. In fact, it is 8.45 pm now but we haven’t had momos yet. I had to take approval to visit Northern Sikkim, so it took me a couple of hours to get the official approval. That took up a lot of my time. Now that I am back on the M.G. Road, it is raining here. I had left my umbrella at my hotel and I had to borrow this umbrella from someone around here. Let me see where I can get momos to eat. Let us go into this Roll House. Roll House has a lot of options in momos available. I have ordered for myself mushroom cheese momos. Since it was a bit crowded inside, I have come out in the open, in the rain, to eat my momos. Since I have this umbrella with me, I thought let me enjoy a bit of weather along with the momos. It is good! Momos are juicy inside, the chili sauce is very spicy, and cheese-mushroom is lending a good flavor. I am enjoying this experience of eating outside as the rain falls. Our food and travel journey for today ends here. We will soon meet with a new episode of Gangtok. Till then, goodbye! See you soon!