Decoding food in Majnu ka Tila

New Aruna Nagar Colony is a name that doesn’t ring a bell with most of us. But it is the place wherein an Iranian Sufi mystic roamed and lived. Abdulla, as he was called back in 1505 met with the Sikh guru, Guru Nanak on July 20th. Since then he vowed to help people cross the Yamuna and come over to the mound. His devotion was such that he came to be known as a mad man or Majnu. And thus the mound of Majnu, the place where New Aruna Nagar Colony was to be established is now known as Majnu ka Tila or MKT.

In 17th century, sikh guru Guru Har Gobind got a Gurudwara made in the name of Majnu and later in 1960 the Tibetan exodus took place, where a lot of Tibetans stranded in the high hills between Tibet at India came down and settled here whence from flourished the streets dotted with prayer flags, ‘Free Tibet’ t-shirts, tiny shops selling curios, imitation silk, dry meats and other local food and ingredients. This bustling colony of bylanes has come about a landmark for all things Tibetan and as soon as you enter you’re welcomed to sounds of Buddhist chants and smells of street food that you’ve never had before. And food here clearly is something to talk about as a lot of tourist-both foreign and domestic along with hordes of DU students make trips to MKT only to taste the delectable Tibetan cuisine.

What to eat

On the Streets

Laphing– is a cold, spicy delicacy sold on mysterious carts. It is a cold cousin of the Thukpa and is equally delicious. Laphing is basically starch rolled with some soya/chicken. It can be eaten dry or put in a soup. Sometimes the Laphing is just a big slab of white starch that is cut and spread with different spicy sauces. The soup has strong flavours of garlic, chilli and salt. It feels light and is meant to give your body warmth. Laphing is sold by quiet and calm ladies behind carts. Ask for a bowl and it’ll just cost you about Rs. 20.

Gyuma– is what you find searing on frying pans in the narrow lanes of MKT. They look somewhat like khandvi (the gujarati snack) but is far from being that innocent. Gyuma are homemade sausages made of buff or pork. The texture is thick and fatty with a very strong meaty taste owing to the way the meat is prepared. It’s not for the faint hearted, those who don’t like the taste of liver would probably not like it. But those who do, it is a must try. You get Gyuma in the main restaurants of MKT as well but it’s better to try the ones on the streets.

Shabalay– are simple yet delectable fried meat patties or something between a fried momo and a patty. It’s much bigger and usually made of buff. The best part about shabalay is that they are larger and juicy. As soon as you bite into one, there’s an explosion of flavour and juice from the meat that happens in your mouth. Try it at any of the tiny street stalls. You’ll usually see youngsters standing around frying these. A piece of Shabalay would cost you 20 bucks.

In restaurants

Restaurants in MKT are scattered all over and mostly offer the same food with minor difference in taste. It’s like how the same daal tastes different in every home. So we won’t talk about ‘the’ place to go in MKT but more about what to eat.

Tingmo– Tingmo is a special kind of Tibetan steamed bread. It has a yeasty texture and is very fluffy while also being a little moist, contrary to most other kinds of breads that we’re used to. They look like big round lumps and you need to tear them off in layers. They are so cute that you might consider adopting them, only to eat them soon enough. Tingmo goes well with a lot of Tibetan hot curries so make your match, have a Tingmo at Teedee’s.

Shapta– is the quintessential meat starter. It is a basic stir-fry meat dish and yet very flavourful. This could be because when I say meat it usually means buff and that adds to the flavour of the dish in its own right. There is a fiery touch to it and is sure to tantalize those taste buds. Order more of this because you will need it and also a tingmo to sooth the chilli. Get to Rego restaurant for your Shapta needs

Thenthuk– means pulled noodle soup. As the name suggests the batter is pulled off and thrown into the boiling stock. It is usually made of buff or mutton along with chinese cabbage/bok choy, chili, onions, beans, carrots etc. The stock is what makes this soup exceptional and Tibetan folk know their stock better than an investment banker. The noodles make this a complete meal and there is no need to have any bread along with it. Thenthuk is basically, a slightly ignored cousin of the Thukpa. Get your Thenthuk at Dolma House.

Chaylay– is the only tongue action you’ll be getting in MKT. Yup, that’s right. Chaylay is fried buff tongue. It is chewy and dense in texture with a little bit of crunch. If you are an eazy queazy person then maybe give it a miss or try not to think of what you’re eating. It is hot and does not usually come in a form where you can recognize what it really is. You might think it is a risk but it is a very common food item for the Tibetans so if you’re in MKT do try it. TeeDee’s do a good job with Chaylay.

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