Vol 4 No 1 | Apr-Jun 2024

The Tell-tale Tails

Story and art by Pankaj Saikia


What is siyal/sel roti?

Sel roti is a delicacy made during the great Nepali festivals of Dashain and Tihar. You will also find these sweetish-sour doughnuts at big celebrations like weddings and other ceremonies. Although they are native to Nepal, sel rotis are also found in the cuisines of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim.

Ideally, the sel roti should be crispy from outside and soft on the inside. It is usually served with aloo dum, aloo ko achaar, matar ko achaar and even with hot chai.



Fermented foods

Sel roti is an ethnic fermented rice food found in the Himalaya region. As a fermented food, it offers a high protein quality as compared to non-fermented rice products, as fermentation increases the nutritional value of foods, especially grains.

Fermented foods are found all over the world. Kimchi, made from pickled vegetables, is a specialty of Korea. In Germany, they have sauerkraut, which is fermented cabbage, and sourdough, made from fermented grains like rye. Miso (fermented soya) comes from Japan, while paneer and yogurt are found almost everywhere in India. South India has its own fermented food which is dosa, made from rice and dal.

Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, which are live microorganisms that help improve digestion, boost immunity and promote health and well being.



The cuisine of Sikkim

Sikkim is located in the Eastern Himalayas. Traditional Sikkimese cuisine is a blend of Tibetan, Nepali and Lepcha dishes from various ethnic tribes and communities of the state.

The food is largely rice-based with organic vegetables like pumpkin, chillies, fermented soya beans, as well as foraged vegetables from the jungles like ningro (fern), nakima (wild lily), baas ko tusa (bamboo shoots), cheuw (mushrooms) and even nettles.

Most Sikkimese people are meat eaters. The cuisine offers a huge variety of mutton, beef, pork, chicken and fish dishes.



Did you know that Sikkim is the first organic state in the world?
In 2015, the entire agricultural area in the state was converted to certified organic; in 2016, the state was formally declared a 100 per cent organic state.