One of the best parts about traveling to a new place is the local food that you get to try. This trip to Leh introduced us to Ladakhi rotis, butter tea (the pink, salty chai the locals swear by in this region) Thukpa, Chutagi ( a soupy pasta dish made with vegetable sauce), and of course, the best momos in the world! (I am not a fan of momos, but something about this weather and the taste made me fall in love with them, which explains why I was devouring entire plates for breakfast)
Unfortunately during the winters most of the cafes, restaurants, and kitchens are shut. The winters here are harsh, and the water supply remains frozen for almost 6 months. There are not too many tourists in the region between October- April, which is why the locals here shut their stores and move to the plains/cities and take up odd jobs to keep earn their livelihood during the “off-season” here in Ladakh.
We visited in March, a cold, cold month that brought along strong winds, heavy snowfall, and sub-zero temperatures. We hadn’t planned any itinerary, neither did we have a “Must Eat At” list because we knew things might be shut. I received a lot of recommendations on Instagram too, but I knew there was a 10% chance of any of those places being open thanks to the harsh winters.
The -6 degree Celsius temperature may have numbed our hands, but not our hopes. We walked around, explored the quiet by-lanes of the Old Town, and walked into dimly lit kitchen spaces hidden behind curtains that we would have missed otherwise. The result? A culinary adventure we’ll remember for a lifetime!
Here is a list of recommendations that I can share based on my experience. I hope you too get to devour all this lovely food that Leh has to offer.
Located right at the start of the Leh Market, this cozy space is run by 4 women who make the most mouth-melting bread sandwiches in the city. I’d recommend the Chicken Sandwich, the Egg Sandwich, the brownies, chocolate cake, carrot cake, honey chili potato, fresh apple juice ( the best!) ginger-honey-lemon tea, and the Brazilian Cappuccino.
If I ever had to run a café here in Leh, I know I’d want it to be as warm, as cozy, and inviting as this one. But I also feel that if I were to work here, I’d probably be eating all the food and leaving nothing for the guests😂
This one’s a popular restaurant that will be recommended by almost all. It’s a cute space, wood-paneling lends it a European vibe, and you’ll find it almost always full because of the aesthetics and brilliant location. As far as the food is concerned, visit for North-Indian comfort food. I’d recommend the aloo parantha, paneer parantha, and aloo chaat. We’re not fans of chole bhature, but we saw them selling like hotcakes here! The jalebis here are famous too.
We didn’t find a recommendation for this one, and walked in on instinct (the open-air rooftop looked pleasant and inviting) The place seems to be pretty popular with the young crowd, and the menu here offers a refreshing change from routine.
What we had: Shakshuka and Egg Thukpa.
This bakery seems to be a popular one with locals as well as tourists. We walked in to sample a pastry and ended up visiting once daily to get our hands on their biscuits, tea cakes as well as donuts.
I’d recommend their biscuits and the chocolate pastry. I’ve heard their coconut macaroons and cookies are some of the best in the town.
Sneh Sweet Shop
This one became our comfort zone as soon as we bit into the fresh, hot samosa that was served to us on our sharing table. An unassuming place with 4 tables that lie hidden behind a mithai counter at the entrance, this place is a pitstop for many locals. We visited this shop every day, sometimes twice a day! What I’d recommend: hot chai, samosa, samosa chat, hot gulab jamuns, fresh jalebis.
New Wazwan Planet
The best Paneer Kadhai in town! This family restaurant is buzzing with customers all throughout the day, and I remember seeing a queue of people waiting to get seated at 7:15 pm (everything here in Leh shuts at 8 pm during the winters, so you end up eating dinner really early) Hot tandoori rotis and paneer kadhai, rice, and dal makhani soon became our favourites here. We even tried the tandoori chicken but since they cook using frozen chicken, it wasn’t too pleasant to eat after it cooled down.
The place was undergoing renovation but they were open for deliveries and take-away. The Chicken Superb Pizza and Cheese Garlic Bread were fresh, super delicious, and made of great quality ingredients.
This was the first recommendation shared by a friend on IG, and because I know she takes her food seriously, I headed over on Day 1 for breakfast. And what a breakfast it was! The Gesmo Special Breakfast ( eggs, toast, hashbrowns, coffee) kept us full for the remainder of the day, and the Yak Omelette (with a side of toast) was inhaled within a few minutes. I also added a plate of veg momos to this order, and boy oh boy, what a soul-satisfying meal this was! The perfect way to start this adventure to Leh, I’d say. We went back twice again, to tuck into our favorite omelets.
It’s one of those cozy-looking, glass-walled cafes located right before the market starts, and I’d recommend this if you’re up for something a little more upmarket than the usual options that are available around. It also makes for a cute momo and coffee date place.
Maggi Point opposite Shay Palace
If you’re visiting Shay Palace (details on this post) please do stop by at the Maggi point right next to the duck pond that you can easily see from the Palace (it’s by the side of the road, there’s no chance that you can miss this) Plastic tables and chairs set out in the open make for the perfect ambiance – you can sip on some hot kawha and tuck into Maggi, eggs or Thukpa, while enjoying the views of the Palance, the ducks in the pond, the green fields and the snow-capped mountains in the distance. In fact, I’d recommend taking this small road trip 15km from Leh only to enjoy this chai-Maggi experience if you must 😊
In Turtuk : Mayar Restaurant
You might miss this tiny entrance even though it’s right in the middle of a busy (main) road. Do ask around if you may, because I know that the parathas you eat here will stay in your minds forever. We relished the aloo paratha (the size of which is that of a medium pizza) and hot chai, and I am not lying when I say I’m going to remember this meal for the rest of my life.
In Khardung: Padma Restaurant
As soon as you get off the mountains, cross North Pullu and enter Khardung village, you’ll come across this roadside joint on the side of the highway. Do look out for the sign (it’s easy to miss it, but once again, the memorable meal is worth the hunt) We ate the aloo paratha and chai combo here too, and stopped by once again because we knew that only one visit was not enough. Surrounded by the snow-covered peaks with a cute donkey for company, this tiny, open space is a great pitstop for all those heading to Nubra. Don’t miss this 😊
What can be missed :
Coffee Culture (though it’s almost always full, thanks to the excellent location & hipster vibe)
Skywok (the food is good, is but the service is TERRIBLE. If you wish to take a risk, please go with truckloads of patience)
Tibetan Wok Kitchen (the rooftop one on the main road of the Leh Market: we ate the Veg Thukpa and Veg Chowmein and it took our tummies less than 2 hours to tell us that something was really, really wrong 😊)