At over 18,000 feet in Ladakh, cold winds were blowing in from the North, permeating every nook and cranny of the dhabas that we stopped on our way from one place to another. We ordered Maggi in all three meals of the day. Despite the bone-chilling cold, we relished every minute of that meal and wiped my plate clean with the last bit of noodle in my plate.
We wondered why the Maggi tasted so differently yummy. Later we realized, it has nothing to do with the food or the way it has been cooked. It has everything to do with climates and the difference between life in the plains and at 18,000 feet. Huddled together around a heater in a tent and nursing a cup of steaming chai, even a bowl of Maggi feels like gourmet food at 18,000 feet.
The travel group was an assorted crew of 11 members, almost same age but from varied professions, who had come together on one mission: eat, pray and love in Ladakh (ok, so the last one did not really materialize!). As the days progressed, friendships were forged over some south Indian snacks ( since 4 of them from South India) Chai and Maggi.
Surprisingly, we got acquainted with a staple product from college dorm life: Maggi noodles. In fact, at Khardung La, the highest motorable pass in the world at 18,500 feet, a large tribute to Maggi and its origins is inscribed on the sides of the main sentry hut.
Coming down from the pass and famished from having driven over five hours from Leh ( some of them on the bikes), we were wondering where our lunch would be, given that there was nothing but rough terrain around us. And then just as we rounded a particularly steep curve, we came upon a pretty sight. The green cafe perched jauntily on the side of a cliff beckoned us with its offer of Maggi noodles and chai. There, with the sound of the wind whistling through the windows, we eagerly bent over our bowls and schlepped the noodles. As the sun finally decided to peep over the peaks to see what all the excitement was all about, our smiles were enough to rival customers at the restaurant digging into their haute cuisine.
Another Ah! moment in our culinary journey in Ladakh had nothing to do with the local food. While waiting for our convoy to get clearance to navigate the Pass on the way back from Pangong, our spirits ebbed as the mercury plunged to very low temperature. With the numbing cold silencing even our funny bone, the South contingent rose to the occasion. We kicked our cache of South Indian snacks beneath the seat and grabbed some of that utterly delicious murmura and namkeens, before we stopped for a Maggi break.
Ah … and when we look back we can say … we can survive on Maggi in Ladakh !
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