A trip around the ladakh region in India always leaves you with great memories, photographs and some interesting stories to share. Here we share one such encounter with the butter tea of ladakh. The Stok Village is a wonderfully peaceful location on the outskirts of Leh. Hikers use this village as base to climb up the Stok-Kangri peak. Within the confines of the village walls was our abode for 3 nights called Woodyvu Stok House. With its artistic character, beautiful views and the buddhist calm of its interior we truly had some great moments staying there. More about that some other time.
This blog is to tell you about a wonderful place for a meal attached to a 200 year old ladakhi house maintained in its original form. The place is called Gyab Thago Heritage Home.
There’s an intangible sense of belonging, an ease in the mind and heart which engulfs you as you sit down for the meal. Attached to the homestay is a 200 year old Ladhaki home, lovingly preserved to give you sense of the people and their life 2 centuries ago! Before the ladakhi thukpa meal was served to us we were given a tour of the same.
There’s no grandeur there, no gold filigree, no throne rooms and jewellery on display. This is not a palacio or castle but a home that speaks to the simplicity and resilience of its past inhabitants. The walls bear the stains of burnt wood and tar. Soot stuck to the wooden stove and vessels remind you that the winters here are unrelentingly harsh, requiring many hours huddled around a fire conserving heat and sharing space.
The musty smells and dark shadows, build a quiet story in your mind. The Kitchen was the warmest part of the house and often the whole family congregated, ate and slept there. There were cellars to store “chong” and food and hay for the farm animals was stored on the terraces, a practice followed to this day giving the Ladhaki homes their unique look!
High on nostalgia and an ephemeral sense of loss for bygone times we head to the owners present home within the same courtyard for our promised traditional lunch and the uniquely flavoured Butter Tea. A spic and span version of the 200 year old kitchen packed with gleaming vessels and stove awaits us.
The owners first gave us the taste of the Butter Tea that was prepared with dollops of butter added to the tea concoction and mashed and mixed by hand to a buttery warmed cup of perfection. Since butter is the main ingredient, butter tea energizes you and is particularly suited to high altitudes. The butter is said to prevent chapped lips. The tea had a unique and refreshingly salty flavour (almost like clear tea soup) and was devoured over some very interesting conversations with the family. The etiquette demands that the cup of butter tea should never become empty. Drink it over eternity.
The traditional ladakhi meal was then served in form out a mouth watering Thukpa that cleared our senses and created warmth as it went in. The fresh vegetables cooked to perfection were all organic and grown in house. The room was filled with silence as we ate and then after being satiated we talked late into the afternoon and reminisced the best times of our lives that we’ve had together. That’s what makes these trips so memorable.
If you do visit Leh sometime, stay at the Stok village and make sure you have this wonderful experience at the Gyab Thago Heritage Home and do give us your feedback.
Acknowledgement for the textual contributions, to Dr Bhakti Tunkiwala. The only lady in our group on this trip!