The land of happiness “Bhutan” has a cuisine which will bring a lot of happiness to your foodie souls too. Because of Bhutan’s high altitude and rough terrain, traditional Bhutanese food is based around a small list of ingredients. The most common are rice, chili, yak meat, and dairy. These ingredients are used in a long list of rustic, rich, and hearty dishes that are especially nourishing in Bhutan’s cold winters. Here is a guide to Bhutanese cuisine and some dishes you can try in the country:
‘Datshi’ translates to cheese in local language. this cheese a special kind of farmer’s cheese which doesn’t dissolve in water and is hardly found outside this nation.You will see a lot of ‘Datshi’ dishes in Bhutanese cuisine and Ema Datshi (Ema means chillies) is the most popular. If there is one national dish to eat when touring Bhutan, this is it. Some people say if you haven’t eaten ema datshi, you haven’t been to Bhutan. The chilies, which can be either fresh green chilies or dry red chilies, are sliced lengthwise, and cooked with datshi and plenty of butter. And although you will find this dish in every restaurant, no two plates of Ema Datshi are similar as every cook has their own version, some being lighter or more watery, others being richer and stickier with cheese. So try it anywhere everywhere and you will love it.
Jasha Maru which is like a spicy stew or curry which is made with diced chicken, onion, garlic, chillies, tomato, ginger and coriander leaves. The noticeable ginger flavour provides the essence to the dish. Considered to be one of the spiciest dishes in the Bhutanese cuisine, caution is advised before eating this served. It is best served with red rice just like any other authentic Bhutanese delicacy.
Pork is another favourite of Bhutanese people and out of all the pork dishes Phaksha Paa is loved the most. It is a classic stew where slices of pork are stir fried with whole red dry chilies and is simmered slowly until tender. Radishes and spinach to make the stew more flavoursome. When finished, the stew is topped with dried pork and fresh green chili strips and served with rice.
Shakam Paa is a Bhutanese dish made using ground beef, dried chilies, and radish.Bhutan is Buddist, but Bhutanese enjoy eating meat (butchery is outsourced to neighboring countries). The country’s cold climate makes it easy to air-dry and preserve meat for consumption year-round. A typical dish made with dried beef is shakam paa. The dish is made with thin strips of dried beef stir-fried with sliced radish and a generous amount of dry chili. Yak butter can also be used in the dish and sometimes the meat is coated with cheese sauce too.
You can’t come back from Bhutan without trying the momos in the country. Well, you people will already know what momos are. Having migrated from Tibet and Bhutan to many regions of India, momos have firmly established themselves as one of the most popular street foods. These steamed dumplings are served piping hot, filled with minced meat, cheese, or vegetables, and consumed with lots of Bhutanese chili sauce known as ezay.
One more variety you will get here is hoentay. They are made with a buckwheat dough wrapper. The dumplings are usually filled with a combination of a local spinach or turnip leaves and cheese, and again, they can either be steamed or fried.
Not only momos, Bhutanese cuisine use buckwheat in many dishes. Puta is a type of traditional Bhutanese noodles. They are a healthy alternative to the regular noodles, as they are made from buckwheat. For puta, the noodles are prepared and boiled, and sometimes before being served the noodles are stir fried in mustard oil along with a light seasoning of salt and Sichuan pepper. This healthy variety of noodles is a staple food in the Bhutanese Cuisine.
Bhutanese love the milk products a lot and that’s why they put milk in their soup too. Jaju is Bhutanese milk and vegetable soup. It’s often made with some type of local spinach or turnip leaves or any number of light leafy vegetables. Sometimes, cheese is also added to the preparation to make it heartier, and tastier. The soup broth consists of milk and butter. Overall, the taste is usually quite mellow and plain, but it goes well together to supplement a full Bhutanese feast.
Are you one of the people who love their breakfast pancakes (high five YO), well there is a heathier buckwheat version you will find in Bhutan. Khur-le is a Bhutanese pancake made from buckwheat, or barley flour. You typically eat khur-le along with Bhutanese main dishes, like ema datshi or shakam datshi, or even just with eggs and ezay (chili sauce).
Suja is the Bhutanese term for butter tea. It is a frothy drink that tastes more like butter than tea, and its salty taste might surprise some. To be honest, it is an acquired taste. You will find butter tea in Tibet and parts of India (mainly the north-east) and nepal too. Traditionally Suja is made from Yak butter but these days you’ll see cow butter being used in the preparation.
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