Will Travel For Food – Where has it taken me…

A few days ago I was invited by my friend and teacher Prof. Kurush Dalal to speak to a class of Travel and Tourism Management students. I was to speak to them about Culinary Travel giving them a writer’s perspective and how to write about food and travel. I don’t know how to teach people to write, but what I know is to tell people the experiences to look for so that they have enough stories to write about. So, as I made the presentation (yes, I HAD to the bit I despise the most!) it started shaping up into what I would do as a culinary travel writer; I spoke about things that I when p keep in mind when planning my trips, stories that I go looking for and the ones that find me instinctively. Places culinary travel has taken me to…

To a humble kitchen in McLeodganj, Himachal Pradesh

After quitting my job in 2016, my first trip was to this dreamy little town in Himachal Pradesh. My only plan here was to eat at the pretty cafes and tiny restaurants and pack-in as many meals as possible in 2 days (also read – Where to eat in McLeodganj). I had another agenda too…to take a cooking/baking class. There are a few Tibetan chefs around and I had read somewhere about Sangye’s Kitchen, a modest little kitchen in the heart of the town. I signed-up for his class to learn Tibetan breads. On that evening, while he taught me to bake using the most baking equipments he had (a gas stove and a pan), Sangye taught me the first lesson of, “start where you are, use what you have.” (also read: Baking bread and learning life’s lessons at Sangye’s Kitchen)

Sangye Tashi

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Baking Bread and Learning Life’s Lessons at Sangye’s Kitchen, McLeodganj

It was 4 in the evening when I landed at Sangye Tashi’s kitchen on Jogibara Road in McLeodganj. The door was locked with a printout pasted on the door specifying the timings of the cooking class and a menu of momos, hand-made noodles, breads and other Tibetan specialities. With no one in sight I scribbled my name and number on the notepad hanging at the door; that’s how tourists inform Sangye that they’re interested in taking up a class. But if you’re not comfortable with the idea, you’ll find him playing carom just across the street. Within a couple of minutes, I saw the cheery chef walking jauntily towards me. I booked a Tibetan bread baking class with him for the next day and set out to explore McLeodganj further.

Also Read: Where To Eat in McLeodganj

Next day, I was at Sangye’s door not realizing that I was about to learn not just Tibetan breads but also the simplest life lessons from a 47 year old Tibetan chef. The kitchen is simple with just a gas stove, few pots and pans, a shelf full of ingredients and cooking counter. His Holiness The Dalai Lama smiles down at us from the framed picture on the wall; a place of pride at all the Tibetan households, cafes, restaurants and shops. There’re no flashy pots and pans or high end baking equipment at this kitchen, but Sangye’s bright smile and enthusiasm makes up for it. In a two hour class, we’re learning three breads – whole wheat, steamed tingmo, bhalek – and deep-fried Tibetan cookies called kaptse.

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Finding Peace in McLeodganj (Little Tibet)

I fell in love with McLeodganj around two years ago, without visiting it even once. It was a book – David Michie’s The Dalai Lama’s Cat – that opened the world of Tibetans in India to me. When HHC (His Holiness’s Cat – the central character of the book) wobbled her way through the lovely hills, I imagined myself trailing on her paw-steps. I wondered about the pretty book cafes where she would perch herself on top of book shelves. The aromas that wafted from the kitchen of The Dalai Lama, would make me mentally re-create those fabulous meals.

So, it wasn’t a surprise that I planned a trip to McLeodganj when I had to accompany my sister to Shimla for some work. We had all of two days so we discounted trekking and site seeing and focused on the town, its people and the food. Continue reading

Where to eat in McLeodganj

Early this month I was in McLeodganj. I was accompanying my sister who was in Shimla for her exams and from there we traveled to McLeodganj to spend leisurely two days in Little Tibet. Two days clearly weren’t enough especially when I was working on this post; 3 days, 6 meals and a whole lot of places to cover. So we decided to walk around as much as possible and pack in small meals at various places. We were disappointed by a few – Tibetan Kitchen to be specific – and found a few on our own – Lhamo’s Croissants, the gem of a place. Here’s what I think are the must try places in McLeodganj. Continue reading

Enjoy Shimla in a non-touristy way

I remember my first trip to Shimla, around 12 years ago, was a bundle of sight-seeing. It’s tough to experience a city when you are at the mercy of your cab driver. Now that I am grown-up and wiser, I know better and wouldn’t ever fall for the trap again. This time I decided to be on my own and was please to see how the city opened itself to me, got friendly and made me comfortable. So much so, that I didn’t think twice before stretching myself on a road-side bench for a nap. Here’s what I think are the best ways to enjoy the city, not like a tourist. Continue reading