A New-Found Love For Korean Cuisine Is Simmering In West Bengal's Quaint Hill Town

Whether you're craving Kimbap, Bibimbap, Bulgogi or Tteokbokki, the restaurants running along Kalimpong's Rishi Road have all that and more on their menu.
A Korean fare featuring authentic dishes
A Korean fare featuring authentic dishes

A few years ago, Korean cuisine probably wouldn't have popped into your mind when making a list of all the must-eats in Kalimpong. Now, it's found a place right at the top. This quaint hill town in West Bengal has also been caught by the Korean obsession many of us have succumbed to. Many Korean eateries&ndashbig and small&ndashhave cropped up along Kalimpong's central market street, also known as Rishi Road market. 

Before Korean Cuisine 

Although Korean favourites like kimbap, bibimbap or Korean fried chicken have recently made a debut in Kalimpong's culinary scene, Bengali and Tibetan dishes were the reigning heroes before. Even now, households have not let go of the local preparations like gundruk ko jhol (soup prepared with fermented leafy vegetables), sukuti ko achar (dried fish pickle), and kewa datshi (a stew made with potato and cheese). The local markets or haats also continue to sell indigenous staple ingredients like ningro (local fern) and nakema (ground orchid). Despite that, the smoky, intense flavours of Korean cuisine have taken their place in Kalimpong's food map. 

Korean Must-Eats In Kalimpong

The kilometre-long stretch that once only had Bengali or Tibetan eateries dishing out comforting and familiar dishes like Thukpa or fish curry has been taken over by minimally decorated but cute Korean cafes. They have become a popular haunt among young adults&ndashthe starry-eyed generation for K-Pop and K-Dramas.

Starmark restaurants like Kravings by Keepa and Heart in Seoul on Rishi Road market for a hearty Korean affair&ndashmake sure to try chicken rabokki (a dish made of rice cakes and ramen), classic pork ramyeon (pork ramen), and haemul jeon (scallion pancake). However, if you want to taste Korean street food, head a few kilometres ahead of Rishi Road to Haat Bazaar&ndasha farmer's market held every Wednesday and Saturday. 

In Haat Bazaar 

Here, you will find vendors selling everyday items like umbrellas and utensils and local street-food dishes like momos and thambi (a dish made of mung beans). But if you search harder, you will find a few sellers enthusiastically pitching the names of some Korean street-food delicacies like corn dogs and tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) for you to try. 

Even though the reason behind Kalimpong's emerging identity as a Koreatown remains unknown, as the hill town isn't or hasn't been home to Korean immigrants, it has added immensely to its multi-cultural ethos. 

How to reach Kalimpong 

By Air The nearest airport is Bagdogra International Airport in Siliguri. From here, you can rent a local taxi to Kalimpong. 

By Train The nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri. From here, you can hail a pre-paid taxi to Kalimpong. 

By Road Kalimpong is well-connected via road to Siliguri, Gangtok, Kolkata and Darjeeling. Many local and private buses ply Kalimpong. 

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