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Leh, Ladakh

Ladakh is not a place for a weekend trip, neither a destination for which plans can be made in haste. A trip to this Himalayan highland demands meticulous planning well in advance if you want to truly immerse into the nature, enjoying the place and not having to worry about few things very unique to Ladakh. Below are some of the points we believe are important to consider. These are the thing to keep In mind while planning for Ladakh. We followed these points and planned well in advance to ensure we had an unforgettable holiday.


1. Plan Early, Book Early:


Trip to Ladakh demands a well-planned itinerary involving planning well ahead of the trip and making all bookings according. This starts with booking flights to and from the city of Leh from various big cities in India or planning a journey by road from either Sri Nagar (via Kargil) or from the hill station of Manali. You should book the flights or hire a car early enough to finalise your travel dates. Since last decade Ladakh has gained immense popularity among domestic travellers and international audiences as one of the top destinations in India. This has resulted in hotels getting booked way before the holiday season starts. Therefore, booking a suitable hotel within your budget well in advance is the best possible way to avoid disappointment with hotel unavailability or paying higher price later. We booked our flights and all hotels around 6 months ahead of our scheduled trip.


2. Book Taxi Early:


Leh Taxi, Leh, Ladakh

Our vehicle for the Ladakh trio with reliable taxi driver Sonam Namgail


This is a well-known fact now that during peak tourist seasons of June, July and early August tourists in large number arrive in Ladakh due to its increased popularity as a top destination in India. This has resulted in scarcity of taxis for majority of the tourists who depend on rental taxis for travel within the region of Ladakh to visit tourist attractions and sightseeing. As per the local regulation, taxis from outside Ladakh are not allowed to take tourists for sightseeing. Tourists are only allowed to rent taxis from Leh Taxi Union where all local taxis are registered. And as the number of taxis are finite, many tourists are faced with a problem of inland transport after reaching Leh and find themselves without a taxi. Therefore, book a taxi well in advance by contacting the drivers via Leh Taxi Union and pay a small deposit to ensure you have a car to take you around once you arrive. Also, Leh Taxi Union has price list for all sightseeing and destination on their website which is transparent and travellers are charged fairly for hiring a taxi. For our trip we contacted a taxi owner 6 months ahead and confirmed the price and paid the deposit.


3. Altitude Sickness And Medication For Travel Sickness:


Leh, Ladakh, Altitude Sickness, AMS, Medicine for AMS

Diamox is a commonly recommended medication to flight AMS


Entire region of Ladakh is considered as high-altitude region due to its average altitude of 10,000 feet and above. Leh, which is often considered as gateway to Ladakh is situated at an altitude of over 10,600 feet. Due to this high-altitude, majority of the travellers coming from the plains and low altitude regions to Ladakh suffer from mild or in some rare cases severe altitude sickness or AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). Some of the main symptoms associated with altitude sickness are headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and general tiredness. Air tends to be thin in regions of high-altitude like Ladakh where breathing enough oxygen initially can be proven challenging causing altitude sickness. After arriving in Ladakh while the body starts to get acclimatised to the high altitude, taking Acetazolamide (commonly sold over the counter as Diamox in India) helps with altitude sickness. We took Diamox for first 3 days after reaching Leh while our body was getting acclimatised. Even with Diamox we experienced mild symptoms of altitude sickness on Day 1 – we had mild headache and nausea, felt tired, and lost our appetite. However, from day 2 we felt much better and by day 3 our body got acclimatised well.


Leh, Ladakh, Altitude Sickness, AMS, Roads of Ladakh

Long journeys though winding mountain road can give rise to motion sickness for tourists


Another health issue many travellers face with while in Ladakh is travel or motion sickness. Ladakh is a mountainous region with bending and winding mountain roads which make you motion sick while traveling by car from one place to another, especially during long journeys. The common symptoms of travel sickness are very similar to some of the altitude sickness like nausea, vomiting and dizziness. The best way to tackle travel sickness is by taking travel sickness medication like Dimenhydrinate commonly sold as Gravol or Promethazine commonly sold as Avomine in India. We took medication for travel sickness regularly during long car journeys in Ladakh which helped us keep away travel sickness and enjoy out trip.


4. Spend Enough Time In Leh To Acclimatise Once You Arrive:


This point is related to altitude sickness and acclimatisation and can have a significant impact on your overall trip to Ladakh. In medical terms altitude over 8,000 feet is considered as ‘high altitude’ until 12,000 feet and anything between 12,000 to 18,000 feet falls under ‘very high altitude’ category. Many travellers tend to spend very little time in Leh (which is already falls under high altitude category) before venturing out to even higher region of Ladakh like Pangong Tso within first 24 to 36 hours of arrival. This sudden increase in elevation in most cases can give rise to moderate to severe altitude sickness as body does not get enough time to acclimatise. This is especially dangerous for people with other co-morbidities. In many cases travellers are forced to go down to lower altitude for safety, jeopardizing the entire travel plan.


Therefore, it is best to spend first 72 hours in Leh which gives the body enough time and chance to acclimatise to the high region before going higher. As per the current report when this blog was written, the local Government in Ladakh has made it mandatory for travellers to spend the first 48 hours in Leh and surrounding areas before venturing out to higher altitude regions. We spend first 72 hours in Leh and went out for Leh local sightseeing and day trips from Leh to attractions in Indus River Valley and Sham Valley which are almost of similar altitude as Leh. This gave us ample time to acclimatise.


5. Ensure Obtaining Correct Permit As Per Travel Plan:


As many tourist attractions in Ladakh are near or very close to the ‘Line of Control’ with Pakistan and ‘Actual Line of Control’ with China, domestic and international travellers require a permit from the Deputy Commissioner’s (DC) office in Leh to visit these areas. The areas that come under the permit are in Nurba valley, Khardung La pass, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, Turtuk, Chushul, Dah and Hanu village, Man and Merek village, Nyoma and Loma Bend. No permit is needed to visit places around Leh such as places in Indus River valley, Zanskar valley or Suru valley.


Leh, Ladakh, Inner Line Permit, Protected Area Permit

Protected Area Permit that we obtained in Leh from DC Office


This permit is called differently for Indian and international travellers:

  • Indian Travellers – Inner Line Permit

  • International Travellers – Protected Area Permit

Travellers are required to obtain this permit in advance from the DC office in Leh. The permit can be obtained either online or by going to DC office which is open Monday to Saturday and even on Sundays during peak tourist seasons. Inner Line Permit is valid for three weeks and Protected Area Permit is valid for two weeks. As an international traveller you need to specify the places you wish to visit as the permit will list the places that you have applied for. In most cases when travel agents apply for international travellers includes all applicable areas that require permit in the application. Also, it is not mandatory to travel with the same travel agent who has applied the permit for international travellers.


Indian passport holders can easily self-apply and pay online to get the Inner Line Permit. For international travellers, only government registered travel agents can apply for the Protected Area Permit. If you are an international traveller and can agree with a travel agent to use their name while applying online for the permit, you can apply online yourself. You will need to select the name of the travel agent from dropdown menu. We found it easier to have the travel agent apply for us. The process takes a day and can be obtained after arriving in Leh. We gave our passport and the required money for the permit to the front desk of the hotel who arranged the permit for us via a travel agent on same day. The charge for the permit includes INR 400 per person as Environment fee and 50 INR as Red Cross Fee each person, plus INR 150 service change per person for the Travel agent applying for the permit. Important to note is that children are also required to pay the same fees as adult travellers. Once the hard copy signed permit is obtained a few photocopies of the permit should be made. This is because all check posts along the protected area though which you will pass through will keep a copy of the permit.


6. Rent And Keep Oxygen Cylinder For Supply In Case Of An Emergency:


In cases of moderate to severe altitude sickness where an individual struggles to breathe adequate oxygen normally, steady supply of oxygen artificially is needed for safety. Altitude sickness or AMS does not depend on age or fitness level. Even the fittest person can fall victim of AMS at higher altitude, and at that moment an oxygen cylinder can be the difference between life and death. Therefore, while travelling to high regions in Ladakh you are required to carry oxygen cylinder in case of an emergency. However, in Leh, in majority of cases, travellers are not required to rent and keep oxygen cylinders as hotels keep their supply of oxygen for visitors and hospitals in Leh also provide support in an emergency. Renting an oxygen cylinder is always required while travellers are going to remote locations like Nubra valley, Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri where medical facilities are not readily available like Leh city. Keeping oxygen cylinder will give crucial time to get back to Leh city in case of acute AMS while in the remote areas of Ladakh.

Leh, Ladakh, Altitude Sickness, AMS, Oxygen cylinder hire

We hired our oxygen cylinder from Leh Oxy Care

Oxygen cylinders can be rented from the city of Leh for various lengths of time. The cylinders come in various sizes from handheld bottle for oxygen shots to various size of cylinders which can provide constant supply of oxygen for different lengths of time. Majority of the travellers rent oxygen cylinders for 3 days when they travel to the higher altitude of Nubra valley, Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri. A medium size cylinder can provide constant supply of oxygen for approximately 10 to 11 hours and in most cases is adequate to carry while going to higher region from Leh. While renting the oxygen cylinder the supplier demonstrates how to open and use the tank and will also supply accessories like pipe supply and breathing masks. Check with supplier to ensure the cylinder is full while renting. Point to be noted here is if the cylinder is not used at all, no money will be given back while returning the cylinder.


We rented a medium size oxygen cylinder from Leh which cost us INR 2500 for 3 days. During our trip thankfully we did not have to use it.


7. Drink Plenty Of Water To Stay Hydrated:


Drinking plenty of water in high altitude helps with AMS. It’s always advisable to drink plenty of water and at regular intervals during the entire Ladakh trip. Its best to buy few big bottles of water when you arrive at Leh and keep this supply in the car for your travels. Hotels do supply with bottle of water for free in the room, however that will not be sufficient in most cases. We purchased a dozen of 2 litres bottled water from Leh on arrival from a grocery store which was sufficient for us for the entire trip.


8. Pack Moisturising Cream And Sunscreen In Your Suitcase:


Ladakh is a dry place where air contains very little to no moisture. This can result in dry nose and in worst case nose bleeding from dryness. The best way to prevent this is by applying a heavy moisturising ointment on the lining of nose. Same goes with dried lips, applying ointment regularly will help keep lips moist and prevent cracking. We purchased a tube of Boroline (very popular all-purpose moisturising cream in India) on the recommendation of a local shopkeeper and it worked like a treat.


Also, with no cloud cover in Ladakh during summer don’t forget to use sunscreen.


9. Avoid Smoking And Drinking Alcohol:


Smoking may aggravate condition of altitude sickness. Therefore, its best to avoid smoking while travelling to Ladakh. Same goes with alcohol, as consumption of alcohol to any extent while travelling to high altitude places like Ladakh can worsen the symptoms of altitude sickness. Further alcohol dehydrates body which is not something you need while trying to acclimatise. Try to avoid consuming alcohol while holidaying in Ladakh, we stayed completely sober during our 9 days in Ladakh and our trip was no less enjoyable!!

10. Don’t Rush, Take It Slow And Enjoy The Surroundings


Leh, Ladakh, Pangong Lake

Ladakh is a place which demands slow-paced travel

Ladakh is a place to enjoy at a slow pace. Specially once outside the city of Leh, life is more laidback and relaxed. Trying to match up with this slow pace allows travellers to enjoy more with greater attention to the little details. Also, the peaceful vibe of Buddhism lends very well to the peaceful nature and surroundings of Ladakh. Try not to rush while visiting any tourist attractions, whether it’s a monastery or a place with natural beauty. Take time to absorbing the surrounding, feel the nature and reflect inwards!


11. Dress Comfortably And Modestly:


Ladakh has number of monasteries and gompas open to visitors as Ladakh is a place for spirituality beside endless natural beauty. While visiting monasteries and gompas it’s important to dress modestly to show respect. I wore shorts and full trousers both while visiting monasteries and was not stopped for wearing shorts. While visiting Gurudwara Pathar Sahib visitors are offered full trousers as well as head cover by the temple management.

Leh, Ladakh, Travel to Ladakh

Dressing comfortably goes a log way


Apart from being respectful to the local religion and culture, Ladakh is also located at high altitude and weather can be on the colder side in many places during the evenings, especially in remote locations in Nubra valley and Pangong Tso area. So adding some breathable layers keeps your comfortable in the changing temperatures. Carrying something warm comes in handy, especially when you are in Nubra Valley and in Pangong Tso.


12. Respect Local Community And Their Culture And Nature:

Leh, Ladakh, Monastery, Ladakhi culture

Visitor are expected to respect the religion and culture while visiting religious places


Ladakh is home to many tribal and ethnic communities like Changpa, Balti, Drokpa, Mon and many more. These communities mainly follow Tibetan Buddhism and Islam and have their own culture, customs and traditions which they have safeguarded for generations. So, while visiting these communities, their religious places such as monasteries or the mosques, it’s important to respect their culture as an outsiders. Same applies to Ladakh’s unique natural diversity which needs to be preserved for generations to come. Therefore, it’s imperative to respect the nature while visiting the land of Ladakh.


Please do note that we are not medically qualified individuals. All information you have red above are based on our own experience and internet research. If you are travelling to Ladakh in future, before making your booking we will strongly suggest you consult with your family doctor/physician about altitude sickness/ acute mountain sickness and what medication to take during your trip based on your health condition. If you have respiratory problems, asthma or any other serious medical condition, we will strongly recommend you consult your family doctor/physician before making any travel plans to Ladakh.


Some useful link on Ladakh for further information


General Information on Ladakh tourism: https://leh.nic.in/tourism/


Information on Inner line permit / Protected area permit: https://www.lahdclehpermit.in


Information on Ladakh Taxi Union and rates for renting taxi: https://www.ladakhtaxiunion.com



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Ladakhi food is hard to find! Unfortunately mass tourism has given undue advantage to food from the north of India and pushed home cooked recipes off the restaurant menus! But dive deeper and you will find little gems which serve unpretentious, simple and rustic food that people eat. Again the food differs quite a bit from one region to another and between Buddhists and Muslims, and there is quite a bit to be explored and enjoyed.


Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being thukpa (noodle soup) and tsampa, known in Ladakhi as ngampe (roasted barley flour). Edible without cooking, tsampa makes useful trekking food. Strictly Ladakhi dishes include skyu and chutagi, both heavy and rich soup pasta dishes. As in other parts of Central Asia, tea in Ladakh is traditionally made with strong green tea, butter, and salt and called gur gur chai. Most of the surplus barley that is produced is fermented into chang, an alcoholic beverage drunk especially on festive occasions.


Below are some of the common and famous Ladakhi food we tried through our travel in Ladakh. Based on our experience with food in Ladakh these are the food to try in Ladakh.

Chutagi:


Chutagi, Ladakhi food

A bowl of freshly made chutagi

Churagi, Ladakhi food

Chutagi is made from simple and flavourful ingredients


This classic and traditional Ladakhi dish is a wholesome and nutritious dish which literally translates to water-bread where Chu in Ladakhi means water and Tagi stands for bread. Chutagi is the Ladakhi version of pasta soup where the pastas are made from wholewheat flour dough. The dough is first rolled flat and then cut into circular shape. These circles are then fold into the shape of bowtie and cooked in a flavourful vegetable broth. Vegetables used in making chutagi are mostly seasonal vegetables that are available in the high regions of Ladakh like potatoes, radish, carrots, beans and local leafy vegetables. The broth is first made by boiling all vegetables in it and wholewheat pasta are then added towards the end. Chutagi is a filling dish which is suits well with the cold and harsh winter of the region. There is a meat version of chutagi where lamb or yak meat gets added into the broth.


Thukpa:


Thukpa, Ladakhi food

Nothing is more desirable then a bowl of thukpa in cold wintery night in Ladakh


There is nothing more desirable than a warm bowl of thukpa during cold nights in the mountains of Ladakh. Thupka originated in Tibet, and is a staple and most consumed dish in Ladakh and other parts of the Himalayan range. Thukpa is essentially a soup noodle – the noodle is made from wholewheat or barley flour and the soup is light flavourful clear vegetable broth made using garlic, onion and other local vegetables. Thukpa can be served as a vegetarian dish or as a non-vegetarian where chicken or minced yak or lamb meat gets added. The secret of a good thukpa lies in the quality and flavour of the broth.


Skyu:


Skyu, Ladakhi food

A wholesome dish - Skyu


Skyu is a traditional Ladakhi dish and is very similar to chutagi being a pasta soup which is wholesome and packed with nutrients. But unlike chutagi, in skyu the shape of pasta looks similar to a small ear! The pasta is made from the wheat or barley flour dough where small balls of the dough are kneaded into small flattened ear shaped pasta. The vegetables used in skyu are mainly root vegetables like potatoes, turnips and carrots, though greens like peas and spinach are also used. Similar to chutagi, the vegetable broth for Skyu is prepared by boiling the vegetables and then pasta gets added into it. In many parts of Ladakh, yak or goat milk is added to finish the dish. Adding the milk adds another layer and elevates the taste. The dish is often called as oma-skyu when milk is added, oma means milk in Ladakhi. The non-vegetarian version of skyu has mutton in the broth. Skyu is mainly preferred during the winter as it provides much needed energy and keeps the body warm during the winter nights.


Momo:


Momo, Ladakhi food

Momo - the most popular food among tourists and travellers in Ladakh


Momos are extremely popular in Ladakh and other parts of Himalayan region stretching towards the hills of North-East of India. The popularity of this dish has made it a famous street food through the length and breadth of India. Essentially a dumpling, momo consists of a casing made from wheat flour dough which gets rolled into a very thin sheet and stuffed with vegetable or minced chicken or meat in a shape of crescent or half-moon. Once stuffed, the momo gets steamed in a special container called mokta. Vegetables commonly used in momo are finely chopped cabbages, carrots, potatoes, onions and other locally available vegetables. Best eaten hot, momos are served with a bowl of clear flavourful soup and a dipping sauce made from garlic, tomato and onions. Nothing beats eating a plate of freshly made steaming momos with a bowl of soup in the cold nights in Ladakh after all day of travelling through the mountains.


Khambir:


Khambir, Ladakhi food

A piece of Khambir with a cup of Gur Gur chai


Khambir is a staple breakfast in the region of Ladakh. Made from fermented dough of whole wheat, khambir is brown in colour, round in shape, thick and dense. The bread is prepared by first baking it over a hot pan and then directly over fire. Khambir is enjoyed best when it is still warm and fresh with a cup of butter tea or gur gur chai. It can be eaten even after a week once made and is a popular and staple food among nomadic and semi-nomadic people of Ladakh.


Balti Dishes or Baltistani Cuisine:


Baltistani cuisine is very different from the rest of the Ladakh due to unique Balti culture and tradition which gets reflected though their food. The use of ingredients is also very different from the rest of Ladakh. In Balti cuisine, ingredients like buckwheat, walnut, mint, barley are extensively used. While visiting Turtuk we had the opportunity to try out some Balti dishes from a restaurant called Balti Kitchen. Some of the traditional Balti dishes we tried during our visit to Turtuk were:


  • Moskot:


Moskot, Balti cuisine, Balti food

Moskat - a traditional Balti dish


Moskat is a pancake made from buckwheat flour and served with walnut sauce. The sauce is thick in consistency and is made with crushed walnut paste, onion and herbs like mint. The pancake is made from a batter made by mixing the buckwheat flour with salt and water. While serving, the walnut sauce is poured over the pancakes.


  • Parku:


Parku, Balti cuisine, Balti food

Parku - a wholesome and heavy dish with nutty flavour


Parku is a pasta dish where the thumb shaped pasta gets mixed in a thick walnut sauce. The pastas are made by hand pressing small balls of dough made from barley. The walnut gets blended with water and few herbs like mint into a smooth paste and heated over fire to create the sauce. The pasta gets boiled separately in water and once soft, gets added to the sauce and mixed well before being served. Parku is a wholesome and heavy dish with nutty flavour. It’s helps to keep the body warm during the cold months.


  • Mamtu:


Mamtu, Balti cuisine, Balti food

Mamtu - similar to momos, belived to be originated in China


Essentially a dumpling, Mamtu is a traditional Balti dish and a staple food for the Balti people. Popular as a starter dish Mamtu is popular throughout the region of Baltistan and parts of central Asia. It is believed that Mamtu has its root in China where tradesman travelling on silk route used to carry this dumpling with them to be consumed en-route. The thin casing of Mamtu is made from the dough which is prepared by mixing flour and salt with water. The filling used in Mamtu can be either chopped mixed vegetables like potatoes, turnips, cabbages, onions or minced meat – either beef or mutton or a mixture of vegetable and meat. The ball or half-moon shaped Mamtu then gets steamed until soft and cooked through and served with a spicy sauce.


Gur Gur Chai or Butter Tea:


Gur Gur cha, Ladakhi bullet tea, Ladakhi food

A cup of Gur Gur Chai is always refershing


Essential in everyday life like our cuppa of tea, as well as in festivals, social gatherings or simply to welcome guest to home, Gur Gur chai or butter tea is a traditional Tibetan beverage. This high caloric drink is widely consumed in Ladakh and in rest of the Himalayan region. Made from yak butter, salt, milk and tea leaf infused warm water, the butter tea (also known as Tsaza locally) made by churning all ingredients in a long cylindrical vessel until mixed well. The name of the drink came from this cylindrical vessel which is called gur gur. Though the other theory is the name gur gur came from the sound that is produced while churning all ingredients. This salty buttery drink helps to keep the body warm and hydrated in the Himalayan high-altitude region and helps with altitude sickness. Gur Gur chai is best paired with a piece of khambir at any time of the day, but specially for breakfast.


Sea Buckthorn Juice:


Sea Buckthorn juice, Ladakhi food

Sea Buckthorn berries which produces the refreshing juice


Also known as Leh berry, sea buckthorn is a thorny shrub that bears bunches of small size orange-coloured berries. Native to Himalayan region of India, sea buckthorn bushes can be seen almost in every valley in Ladakh which are in lower altitudes, like Nubra valley. We saw plenty of big bushes of sea buckthorns along the roads. During our visit in August the plants were bearing orange berries which we were told will be ready to be harvested during fall. The juice that comes out by squeezing these berries are also orange in colour and sweet in taste. Sea Buckthorn juice is a very popular drink in Ladakh and readily available in tetra packs in supermarkets. During our stay in Ladakh whenever we checked into hotel in Leh or in Nubra, we were welcomed with a glass of sea buckthorn juice.


Apricot Jam:


Ladakhi Apricot Jam, Ladakhi food

A local delight - Apricot Jam


Apricot grows in abundance in Ladakh and was introduced from China and central Asia during the early 20th century. A number of apricot orchards can be found in the lower region of Ladakh like Nubra valley or Sham valley. Apart from jam, dried apricots and apricot juice are equally famous. The jam is prepared by traditional methods where the apricots are first sun dried and then boiled in water with sugar, lemon juice and spices to produce a think sweet and tangy jam. Traditionally, apricot jam is served with khambir for breakfast. In Leh, all supermarkets and grocery stores sell apricot jams in jars which is a popular souvenir among tourists to take back home.


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  • Writer's pictureSlow Coach


When it comes to food, Paris needs no introduction. It has been inspiring the world and tempting the world with its endless repertoire of classics. Food that is simple but requires finesse and technique! With so much to see and experience in Paris, it is only logical to spend some time focussing just on food! Our legs followed our taste buds and our taste buds had a feast! And with all the feasting we sure need to do more legwork but what is a life without an endless affair with good food! Here’s our Paris food dating guide! Flirtatious at most but we will definitely be back for more!


Escargot - garlic butter snail served on an escargot plate


1. Snails with garlic butter - Escargot


A French delicacy, escargot or snails is a popular appetiser in French cuisine. It’s believed that the modern-day recipe of escargot was invented in Burgundy during early 19th century. As the story goes, Napoleon’s steward (Tallyrand), went for a late lunch with Tsar Alexander I in Burgundy where the restaurant owner had nothing to serve! So he cooked garden snails in garlic, parsley and butter. The taste of the garlic butter snail won over the heart of the Tsar and the dish got its popularity thereafter. In this French recipe the snails are first taken out of shell and then cooked in garlic, butter and parsley and served overa toasted baguette or put back in the shell and served just like that on an escargot plate. If served like this, a special tong is used to scoop out the snail and eaten on its own or with a piece of baguette.


We tried the escargot as an appetiser at lunch with toasted baguette and enjoyed its simplicity and depth of flavour.



Duck Confit served with roasted potato


2. Duck Confit


This shining star of French cuisine is a few centuries old! The dish involves slow cooking the duck (mainly leg and thighs) in its own fat for a long period of time under low heat which turned the meat so tender that it falls from the bones and melts in your mouth. Slow cooking the cured meat in its own fat is a method used for preservation for centuries when refrigeration was not a concept. The ‘confit’ comes from the French word ‘confire’ which means ‘to preserve’.


A perfectly made duck confit involves a very lengthy cooking process where the duck meat is first dry cured with salt, paper, garlic, herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, bay leaf and spices like cloves and star anise for 12 to 24 hours and then slowly cooked for another 5 to 6 hours submerged in duck fat. The dry curing step gives the dish its complex but mild aroma which is one of its main characteristics. Once slow cooked the duck can be stored in its own fat for few days before being served. While serving the duck meat is taken out of the fat and either pan fried or over baked under high heat for the skin to go crackling crispy. Traditionally duck confit is served with mashed or boiled-roasted potato or salad or puy lentils.


We ordered this French classic for lunch at a traditional French restaurant in Paris. The meat was tender, and full of layers of flavours!


Cuisses de grenouilles (Frog legs) - stir-fried in grilled and butter and served with parsley


3. Frog Legs – Cuisses de grenouilles


This French delicacy is not to be missed while touring Paris. For many, a true Parisian experience is incomplete without giving a bite into the delicately cooked frog legs. Not typically confined within the boundaries of French cuisine, frog legs are also very popular in many places in Europe, China, southeast Asia and even in Africa. However, in France the way the frog legs are cooked are no exception to the delicate cooking methods of French cuisine. Lightly tossed in flour, frog legs are fried, stir-fried, sautéed or grilled with butter, garlic and parsley and served with a dash of lemon. According to food historians frog legs came into the French kitchen during the 12th century when monks found frog as an alternative to meats during the time of Lent when they were ordered not to consume meat. Water being the natural habitat, frogs back then were counted as fish by monks and they started eating these during the days of Lent.


We ate fried frog legs which are also knows as Cuisses de grenouilles in French at a traditional French restaurant in Paris. The meat was soft and tender, mildly flavoured with butter, garlic and parsley, and very similar to chicken in texture and like chicken wings in appearance.



Grilled bone marrow served with toasted bread


4. Roasted Beef Bone Marrow


Roasted beef bone marrow is a simple starter or appetizer in French cuisine. Beef bones which used to get discarded in the past are now finding a place in the menu in many French restaurants. The bones with the marrow are either cut lengthwise or across and roasted quickly in high heat in the oven and served with sprinkling of course salt and toasted bread. The rich marrow is essentially fat which turns wobbly or jiggly quickly under head and all its intense flavours comes out. spread over the roasted bread and devoured!


We enjoyed roasted bone marrow as starter for lunch in Paris. The marrow was soft, warm and rich, and melted in your mouth.



Fresh cupped oysters


5. Oysters


France’s love affair with oyster is centuries old and dates back to the Roman era. France being the largest producer of oysters in the world are also the highest consumer! France’s Mediterranean and Atlantic coastline produces some of the best oysters in the world which finds its way to hundreds of kitchens, restaurants and streetside carts in and around


France and beyond. The most popular and common type of oyster that gets served around the world, are cupped oysters. A fresh oyster can be easily distinguished by its slight metallic yet sweet taste which goes down amazingly well with a glass of chilled crispy white wine.


Oyster is served as starter or as a main course in most of the restaurants in France. We ordered a plate of oysters as starter during a meal. Standing to its reputation the oysters were fresh, sweet and was full of flavours from the sea!



Freshly made Jambon-Beurre from a boulangerie in Paris


6. Jambon-Beurre (French Ham Sandwich)


This simple yet famous French sandwich is an iconic staple among and beyond the boundaries of Paris and holds a very special place in the heart of Parisian gastronomy. The popularity of this mid-day snack is well demonstrated by the fact that everyday over a million of these simple sandwiches get sold every day. The name jambon-beurre comes from the use of the two ingredients that are used to fill the sandwich, jambon means ham and beurre means butter. This simple snack is made by assembling only three ingredients – a crusty baguette, unsalted or lightly salted butter and thinly sliced ham, in particular Jambon de Paris which is lightly smoked and cooked ham. Any decent boulangerie in Paris serves this sandwich from their counter, we had a bite from a boulangerie near Notre-Dame.



A bowl of classic French Onion soup


7. French Onion Soup – Soupe à l’oignon


Served as a starter in every traditional French restaurant, French onion soup is a hearty and comforting food with a rich history and tradition attached to it. A similar onion soup is believed to have existed during the Middle Ages in Europe. What started as a humble peasant dish in France slowly gained its popularity and is now one of the most famous French dishes. At the early stages of its existence the French onion soup used to be made from few simple ingredients – lard or butter, onion, dried bread and water. With time it got evolved, the water got replaced by meat stock and herbs and flour got added, but the caramelised onion remained as is, unchanged. After all these years, the perfect French onion soup still depends on how slowly the onions have been cooked on low heat to release all its sweetness and caramelised into a rich brown colour without being burnt. The main characteristic of modern-day French onion soup is the crispy baked bread which gets placed on the top of the soup and topped with a generous portion of cheese (mainly Gruyére). This then gets baked in the oven until all cheese melts!


We tried this French classic in the heart of Paris at a classic French restaurant ‘Au Pied de Cochon’. The soup was simple and hearty, with a rich flavour from the stock, sweetness of the onions and the richness of the cheese!



Rich in taste and flavourful bowl of beef Bourguignon


8. Beef Bourguignon


Arguably the most famous slow cooked hearty French beef stew! It is famous all over the world for its richness and depth of flavours. Dating back to the Middleages, the beef bourguignon started as peasant dish where tough cuts of meats were tenderised in red wine before being cooked with vegetables like carrots and potatoes and herbs. Modern-day beef bourguignon originated in the Burgundy region of France which is famous for two ingredients – rich full bodied Burgundy wine and Charolais cattle known for its tender meat. Hence, it’s not surprisingly that without these two ingredients a beef bourguignon can’t be considered an authentic one. The richness and depth of flavour of beef bourguignon comes from braising the beef in full bodied Burgundy wine, slowly stewed with other ingredients like garlic, onions, carrots and typical French bouquet herb garnish (mix of thyme, bay leaves and parsley). A perfectly cooked beef bourguignon has a rich stew with meat melts in your mouth.


We tried beef bourguignon in a traditional French restaurant in Paris, and enjoyed the complex flavours with perfectly cooked soft pieces of beef and vegetables.



Duck Foie gras, served in the form of terrine


9. Duck Foie gras terrine


Foie gras which is pronounced as fwah-grah meaning fatty liver in French. As the name suggests this dish is made from fatty liver of duck or goose where the liver is turned fatty and large in size and is somewhat controversial. Known as gavage – a process involves force feeding the bird with corn resulting in large and fatty lever. The origin of this process of force feeding can be traced back to Egypt from 2500 BC when Egyptians used to force feed the duck and goose to turn them fatty before consuming. Now in modern day France Foie gras is protected under law as gastronomical heritage of France. Since the liver is full of fats it gets softened and turns into a mousse when placed on pan over heat. This then gets transferred into terrines and refrigerated to settle. Served cold, the duck liver mousse is cut into thick slices and served with bread and some acidic fruit conserve such as plum or apricot to cut the fattiness.


We ordered Foie gras as starter for lunch in a traditional Parisian restaurant. The taste was slightly salty, creamy and buttery with somewhat intense flavour of liver and a texture of an ice cream. Due to its mousse like consistency, it was easily spreadable over a piece of bread and went down well when paired with fruit conserve.



Grilled Camembert served with toasted bread


10. Cheese – Camembert


France is considered as the centre point of the cheese universe and produces a number of delicious and famous cheese loved and consumed by cheese lovers from around the world. Among them all, Camembert is likely the most famous French cheese. Originating in Normandy in France during 18th century, Camembert used to be back in day and even today made from raw cow’s milk- Camembert de Normandie. These days however, the majority of Camembert in France is made from pasteurised milk. While the freshly made Camembert is hard and crumbly, with maturity the interior turns into a runny cheese with a rich buttery flavour. While the exterior turns into a thin hard and mouldy layer due to a white fungus. Once matured, the flavour of the cheese gets intense and pungent, more like a combination of wild mushroom and butter with a mouldy aroma. Once made, the Camembert is packed in small circular wooden boxes to ensure prevention of spillage of runny interior while the cheese matures.


Though Camembert can be eaten as it is, when mature, the best way to enjoy Camembert is by grilling it quickly with garlic and herbs like thyme or rosemary to enhance its aroma and flavour and making the interior even more soft and runny. This can then be paired with toasted bread or baguettes and a glass of full-bodied red wine. We didn’t think twice before tucking into the warm grilled Camembert during the crispy cold evenings with a sip of excellent French wine.

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