It was literally a gourmet's delight for a large number of people visiting the annual two-day traditional Ladakh Food Festival held here earlier this week. Hosted by Women's Alliance, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), the food fest not only satiated connoisseurs of Ladakhi and Tibetan food, but also showcased the region's rich cultural heritage and tourism potential. The food fest that lasted for two days (August 13 to 14) was a big draw. People from far off regions arrived here to relish the local delicacies.
According to Helena Norberg Hodge, founder of Women Alliance, the main reason behind organising this festival had two objectives.
Firstly, it infused confidence among the Ladakhi women. Secondly, it was to let them be aware of possessing commendable culinary skills which, coupled with their knowledge of rich cultural heritage, could boost tourism in the region.
The food fest has been an annual feature for the past 15 years. It fascinates a big number of tourists from different parts of the country and world.
Helena said: "Organising the festival like this definitely creates a greater appreciation for Ladakhi culture. People want to see the local culture, that's why they come here."
About a thousand tourists visited the Ladakh Food Festival this year. Besides, the festival also offered tourists an opportunity to understand the links that Ladakh culture has with various societies in Central Asia and how Buddhism was routed to Tibet through this region.
The visitors relished cups of butter tea known as Gur Gur cha (tea churned with butter that is consumed like a light soup), Tsampa (made from roasted and ground barley flour), Pava (a dough made from boiling water mixed with Tsampa and ground pea flour).
Amit, a tourist, said Ladakhi village women made all kinds of dishes. "I actually tasted almost all of them, and they were really good. Most of them were made with natural products," he said.
The festival featured folk dances and stage plays. Dressed in colourful traditional attire, women danced to Ladakhi music and regaled the tourists.
Tsering Dolma, a local participant, said: "We organise this food festival every year during the tourist season. It helps to showcase our culture and tradition, besides earning us some money for our society. Over ten women self-help groups (SHGs) from different villages of Ladakh region participated this year."