I have never really been a foodie. In fact I am often criticized by my friends for not being as enthusiastic as they are with the prospect of a good meal. But if there is one place that makes me sinfully gluttonous, that is Mcleod Ganj, seat of the Tibetan government in exile. As a hill station it is hugely popular because it is easy to reach and the clean air of the mountains makes you want to gobble more.
Where the West meets the East
McLeod Ganj is one of those places in India where the typical Indian traveller does not feel “at home”… in a good way of course. The crowd is dominated by Tibetans as well as foreign travellers and the restaurant menus are tailor made to cater to the guests from the west. Even as you walk down the road, you will hear dozens of tongues and see people of all colours. The central square of the town and all the roads around it are lined with restaurants selling Tibetan as well as Continental delicacies. As a matter of fact, you will find it harder to find typical Indian restaurants in McLeod Ganj. Indian food is either not present or not very well made in my experience. I have easily found Earl Grey tea, but the regular Indian milk tea was strangely bland.
So, based on my multiple adventures into the abode of Dalai Lama, I am listing out five ways for starting your day at McLeod Ganj. It It is not possible to do justice to every eatery out there, but I am sure these ones will never disappoint you.
- A Conventional Breakfast: My personal favourite for this is the Kunga’s Guest House on the Bhagsunag Road. You may or may not rent a room here but you can surely try out the rooftop restaurant with magnificent view of the mountains. If you are planning for a long trek for the day, it may be a good idea to fuel yourself with a large English breakfast while the health conscious ones can go for fruit cream, muesli and juices. But even if you are a health freak, do not miss the shredded hash browns here.
- Good Coffee and more: If you just want a good coffee and some sandwich or cakes to get going in the morning, you can try any of the numerous cafes dotting the busy roads. But I will personally vouch for Mandala Café and Moospeak Espresso, both situated on the Temple Road. Both are reasonably priced yet cosy and offer free Wi-Fi for good measures.
- Go Tibetan: After all, McLeod Ganj owes its present stature due to the Tibetan settlement. So, you must not come back without trying some Tibetan dishes at least once. Go for the Tibetan butter tea instead of your traditional tea or coffee. Have some momos or go further to find out what thukpas, tingmos and shabalays are. I would suggest the Tibet Kitchen on the Jogiwara Road for this culinary adventure. Try their thukpa, the best I have ever tasted.
- Or maybe some Italian: Well, the Italians are ubiquitous in the world of food. Expectedly, they are there in McLeod Ganj too. You can try Jimmy’s Italian kitchen for baked potatoes, Mediterranean salads and the usual suspects like pastas can provide you a satisfactory start of the day. The wood oven pizza with some honey lemon ginger tea may be a good idea.
Fried Momos on the street: Unlike elsewhere in India, street food is not very prominent in McLeod Ganj. But if you are really in a hurry or do not want to eat or spend much, try the fried momos near the Dalai Lama Temple. It makes perfect sense since the temple is one of the prime attractions and you have to visit it anyways.