How many times in a year do you travel to the hill destinations of India? Not reaching for the bigger picture, if just the hilly regions of West Bengal, then it must be thrice a year. You just Google your destination and get the information of distance, sightseeing places and that’s all. The itineraries given to you by the travel agents are precisely the scripts that are recited commonly to everyone. Somewhat like an interactive voice response ( IVR), you hear when you call the customer service department. But have you ever given any consideration to the local food items of Hilly Region? Many people think that the tribe in hills are hardcore non-vegetarians, but on a few know that they do have the some of the rarest veg -food items in ethnic cuisines.
Experiment the International standard veg-food items of Darjeeling and Sikkim Hills:
As a local host and also a travel consultant I’ve asked many travelers about some of the most common local food items of Darjeeling Hills and Sikkim, but they’d never even seen them. Mostly in all the homestays of Darjeeling, homestays of Kalimpong and Homestays of Sikkim, you can easily find these veg-food items. The most strange part is that these wild vegetables are rarely eaten in other tourist destinations of India. If you just check these wild vegetables they are the most exotic cuisine items in the cooking world of the finest chefs from all around the world.
So why to empty your pockets in an expensive foreign restaurant when you can truly taste them locally in its natural and native flavors.
1. Tamarillo ( Rukh Tamater in local language)
It is a shiny red fruit with the shape and size of an egg. It is a very common vegetable item in the villages of Darjeeling Hills and Sikkim. People eat them in form of chutneys, pickles, and sometimes even with meat. If you are a food lover and love to search for international cuisine then you may find it as one of the most exotic items in veg- food recipes used for desserts, salsas, sauces, and chutneys. The taste of this fruit is a bit tart and sour. These fruits have a long shelf life. Apart from its rich taste and flavor, these fruits are also good sources of Vitamins A, B6, and C, Vitamin E, Thiamine, and potassium. So next time when you travel to the homestays of Darjeeling, Sikkim, do not forget to ask for a chutney made of Rukh Tamater.
2. Squash Root ( Eskoos Ko Tarul in Local Language):
Squash from Hills will definitely be more common for you. Every homestay in North Bengal must have served squash curry to you. But wait, have you ever tasted its root? You will be more surprised to know that this art of squash plant is the most delicious part. The taste is far delicious than the finest potatoes and sweet potatoes. This is one of the best local veg-food of Darjeeling and Sikkim. You will be surprised to hear that in many countries the squash root is served amongst the finest cuisines and many expensive hotels sell them in their exotic menus.
3. Watercress or (Simrayo in Local Language):
Grown in wet and swampy un-polluted environment, watercress is one of the most nutritious green vegetables eaten in many countries. This vegetable is commonly grown wildly and naturally in the hills, and people eat this in many forms. Mostly known nutritious soup you can find many popular recipes of this vegetable all around the world. The good thing about this plant is that you cannot grow this by using chemical farming methods. It has to be grown naturally. This time when you arrive at any popular homestays of Hills, do not forget to ask for Simrayo soup or any other dish.
4. Fern Fiddleheads or (Nigro in local language) :
The beautifully furled fronds of wild and young fern is a delicacy local food in the hills of West Bengal. Whether non-veg-food items or purely vegetarian the forest flavors of this green vegetable enhances the flavors of any dish. You may be puzzled when you see them but not every fern fiddlehead tastes the same or edible. Only a few of them are served with delicacies. This vegetable is not commercially grown in the hills but is mostly collected by the villagers from the dense forest areas. However, in other parts of the world, they are harvested to be sold to restaurants where they create different recipes with Nigro or fern fiddleheads.
5. Nettle Plant or Sisnu in Local Language :
Do not go by the fearsome look and itchy stings of this plant. For people in hills of North Bengal and Sikkim, this plant is both a pain and gain. The itchy and burning sting of this plant is a big problem when you are lost in the forest and have to make your own way through the bushes. But, apart from this, it also has its great uses when you bring it to the local foods of the Rural areas of Himalayan villages. People eat both its flower seeds and young shoots. They also take it for medicinal purpose where it is known to control your blood pressure. This green thorny plant is used in many popular cuisines of Thailand and Vietnam.
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6. Bamboo Shoot or (Baans ko Taamaa in local Language):
This must be the most widely eaten exotic food in the world. You can also buy canned bamboo shoots, that are mostly used in Restaurants for their exclusive menu items. In the hills, you can get fresh bamboo shoots during the rainy season. You will this vegetable in almost all the homestays of North Bengal, cooked in various tastes. Not every bamboo shoot is edible, there is one variety of bamboo which is thinner and only grows above the altitude of 5000 mts.
7. Voodoo lily or (Gurbo in local language) :
Last but not the least, this would be the most strange vegetable you would have ever heard of. Nowhere you can find this vegetable. In hills, it is only found in the dense and undisturbed forest areas. Even the Botanists find it hard to identify this plant. It is known by many names like snake plant, because of its snake-like patterned skin. This plant has recently started attracting flower lovers in other countries because of its beautiful looking flower. In hills, you can sometimes find few tribals selling the new shoot of this plant. They prepare a wonder curry made of this plant which I bet you have never ever tasted.
So. now anytime if you travel to the homestays or hotels of Darjeeling, Sikkim, and rural areas of other hill destinations of West Bengal, just call out their local names and surprise them with your knowledge of their culture and food habits. If possible you can even create your own unique recipe of veg-food items using the above-mentioned items and share your knowledge with them.