You know what I did this summer? And a Vegetarian Thupka Recipe from Tibet

Kangchenjunga(third highest mountain in the world) from Darjeeling
Kangchenjunga(third highest mountain in the world) from Darjeeling

India is dotted with beautiful and exotic hill stations which serve as a perfect getaway from the sweltering heat. Darjeeling which is known as the ‘Queen of hillstations’ sits atop a ridge with a spectacular view of the snow peaks of the mighty Kangchenjunga,the third highest mountain in the world.

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It is one of the most popular hill stations of India,famous for it’s six T’s- Tea, Teak,Toy train,Trekking,Tiger hill and Tourism. Having covered most other hill stations of North and South India, Darjeeling had somehow eluded our list. So this time by unanimous choice it was Darjeeling. The nearest airport is Baghdogra which is approximately 2 to 3 hours away from the hill town. The distance between Baghdogra and Darjeeling has to be covered by cab. The journey in itself is an exhilarating experience.

As we drove up the rolling mountains, we could see slopes of beautiful tea gardens, orchids, pines & rhododendrons. There were flowers in every shade and every where.

Tea gardens and tea pluckers
Tea gardens and tea pluckers

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We stopped by a quaint old Tibetan shop which was selling steaming hot momos. Needless to say they were very delicious.It was by now 5 in the evening and it was getting colder.We had to pull out our jackets and roll up the windows of our car. As our car negotiated along the winding hills, a cloud or fog rose up from the valley and covered the path with a white blanket. For the next 3 to 4 kms there was zero visibility. Our cab driver who was well aware of the hill contours was quite confident but I was shivering with thrill and chill and kept sending silent prayers. The kids were excited though.

I heaved a sigh of relief when we reached our destination. Darjeeling true to what we had heard had a picturesque landscape and a mix of colonial and modern world charm. There are centuries old buildings and houses in Darjeeling that  reflect the traditional British architecture from 1800’s. The hotel where we stayed was originally built for the British Lords and got later rebuilt keeping the old world charm intact. It had a spectacular view of the Himalayas.

The toy train of Darjeeling Himalayan Railways which runs on a steam engine on a 2 feet narrow gauge track is an engineering marvel. It has been accorded the UNESCO World Heritage status. The train ride was an enjoyable experience as the train honked along its way through several loops and zigzags while negotiating steep gradients.Much to the chagrin of my kids who thought I would fall out of the train, I loved  standing at the doorway of the chugging train breathing in the fresh air and viewing the breath takingly beautiful mystical snow capped mountains.

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Train in Batasia Loop

There is a wonderful Japanese temple built in traditional Japanese architecture,monastery and Peace pagoda in a 10 minute driving distance from the town centre. It is surrounded by 100 year old pine trees, flowers in different hues and a clear view of the Kangchenjunga. You can hear the reverberating and rhythmic sound of a huge drum and the soft hum of the chants coming from the prayer room. Visitors are given a small drum pad and a stick and invited to join the prayers.Photography was not allowed inside the prayer room.

Japanese temple

Japanese temple

 

100 year old trees near the Japanese temple
100 year old trees near the Japanese temple

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Our visit to the Darjeeeling zoo was an excitingexperience,especially for our animal lover girl. It is home to many endangered species and high altitude Himalayan animals like the Tibetan Wolf, Red Panda, Snow Leopard ,Siberian Tigers, Yaks and many other animals in semi natural habitats. We had to walk up the steep slopes to see the animals in their enclosures but it was well worth the effort.

Red Panda in the zoo
Red Panda in the zoo
Himalayan black bear
Himalayan black bear

In close vicinity to the zoo is the Himalayan mountaineering Institute which conducts Adventure, Basic and Advanced Mountaineering courses.

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Different kinds of knots displayed at the mountaineering institute
Different kinds of knots displayed at the mountaineering institute

Right outside the zoo were small vendors selling berries and himalayan spices.

berries and spices
berries and spices

All the sightseeing tours,trekking and activities made us all very hungry. Darjeeling cuisine is a mixture of Tibetan,Chinese,Nepalese,Naga and Bengali cuisines. I always love to explore the local food of the places we visit.Momos are the most popular local snack food in Darjeeling. Another very popular Tibetan food is Thukpa. It is  a hot noodle soup mixed with meat, eggs, vegetables etc which is served in a large bowl.Alu Dum is a typical Nepali and Bengali snack which  is prepared by boiling cut potatoes in a thick gravy and mixing dried red chili powder in it along with onion slices, few cloves of garlic, some mustard oil and some red color.Shaphalay is a Tibetan bread which is stuffed with meat.

Tibetan Thupka
Tibetan Thupka
Momos,Fish Orra,Giant Momos,Spring rolls. Aloo dum in the centre.
Momos,Fish Orra,Giant Momos,Spring rolls. Aloo dum in the centre.

Our journey downhill to the airport was another exciting experience. We were generously allowed to spend a day at a tea estate by one of my husband’s friends who owned it. It was extremely beautiful. We learnt how tea was plucked,processed and packed. And of course we got to taste the finest and freshest of darjeeling teas.

 

Tea estate in Darjeeling
Tea estate in Darjeeling
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Darjeeling tea

A surprise visit to Nepal

While driving down the hill, the road acts as the divider between India and Nepal. The road belongs to India and the valleys belong to the neighbouring country Nepal. Our cab driver offered to take us to  Pashupati market in Nepal. There was a small immigration counter where tourists  can register their names and enter Nepal. Yes, it is that easy.

Pashupati Market Nepal
Pashupati Market Nepal

Vegetarian Tibetan Thupka Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup of noodles (Tibetan)
  • ¾ cup of mixed frozen vegetables
  • ½ cup spinach, diced into big pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 ½ cup vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ green chili, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoon canola oil

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Method

  1. Place noodles in a pot with 4 cups of water and put on stove on medium to high heat and boil for 10-15 minutes or until slightly undercooked. Drain and rinse.
  2. In a separate pan on the stove, pour in the canola oil and heat on medium to high heat. Add in the onions and stir until they are a light golden brown color.
  3. Add in the cumin powder, green chilies, turmeric, garam masala, ginger paste and garlic paste. Stir and simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Finally, add in the thawed frozen vegetables and stir-fry for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Add in the tomatoes, soy sauce, bay leaf, salt, vegetable broth and spinach. Cook this on medium heat, stirring every couple of minutes until the vegetables are tender and soft.
  6. Add in the noodles and stir, coating the noodles with the contents of the pot. Add in as much water as you would like to make it more or less watery. Cook this for another 2-4 minutes.
  7. Finally, serve as a main dish.

Recipe Courtesy: Everywhere fare

To sum it all Darjeeling is a pristine and picturesque hill station with delicious food and a pleasant climate. Next time you plan to hit the hills to beat the scorching heat,you know where to go.

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64 thoughts on “You know what I did this summer? And a Vegetarian Thupka Recipe from Tibet

  1. What a beautiful post Ana. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it all, and felt I was right there with you. From the gorgeous views, to the stunning colors and scents all around, you captured it all beautifully. About 12 years ago when I went to Goa, I had also decided to visit a friend in Kerala. She had arranged a trip to a hill station in Ooty. It was a memory I will never forget. Beautiful old colonial homes built in the times of the British… tea pickers, a guy who brought me chai in my room every morning… I felt like royalty! Your trip to the Queen of Hill stations, brought back wonderful memories for me. So lucky that you were able to see Nepal too. Thanks for the memories 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much dear Loretta. I am so happy you liked the post and it took you down memory lane. We went to Ooty a couple of years back and enjoyed the trip too. Most hill stations were made by and for the British who couldn’t bear the Indian summers especially when there were no airconditioners in those times. You must plan a trip to North Indian hill stations especially Manali. They are blessed with natural breathtaking views and are at a higher altitude. I am so glad you could relate to the post. Have a wonderful weekend dear friend. Take care 🙂

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  2. The narrative was illustrative that I experienced myself as though I was touring Darjeeling.One should visit when young
    Keep up your excitement and mouthwatering recipeess

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Amazing pictures Ana and thanks for sharing a vegetarian Thupka, I guess I can try making this one although not sure when, In love totally with the beautiful pictures and this post. Take care.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello Arohi!! Nice to hear from you. I missed blogging for almost a month. Hope to catch up with all your wonderful posts soon. Thank you so much for loving this post. Have a wonderful Sunday!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. yes, I missed you and your recipes as well and have been wondering where you were until I recently saw your lovely post, I hope you had amazing time my friend. I totally loved the pictures and am longing for a vacation like that too. 😀 Take care.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you so much dear Arohi for missing me.😘 Summers are busy vacationing and catching up with near and dear ones. Hope to be regular in posting! Take care too 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful post Ana – your experiences and the pictures to go along with them. I remember driving in the Smokey Mountains when the fog was terrible – I finally had to pull off the highway and wake my hubby up to drive. We decided to be safe and wait until the fog lifted! Love your recipe too – thanks for sharing all of this interesting info. I wondered what happened to you – glad to see you back 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much dear Judi for missing me and also for liking the post. I was off on a vacation, then had to attend my sons convocation. Then there was a family wedding. So couldn’t be active on the blog.
      Driving on smokey mountains can be really scary. I kept telling our cab driver to stop until the fog lifted. But he was confident because he did that every day and the fog doesn’t lift for hours. We met the same fog conditions and zero visibility on our way down too. That particular 3-4 km stretch is supposedly foggy all the time . But thank God for keeping us safe 🙂

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  5. Such a wonderful post, Ana! Your photos are absolutely stunning. This is one part of the world that I have not been able to visit in person. After gazing upon your photos and reading about your trip, I desperately want to go. It sounds as if you had an amazing time. Delicious recipe too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post
    It’s been long I have been there n I was a kid then but yr photos evoke memories. I love the northern most part of bengal, it is so rich naturally with himalaya, teagardens
    rivers, national parks and reserve forests. Love it all

    Liked by 2 people

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