Last week, I visited Bhutan with my husband to celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary. As it was a trip organized through a travel agency, the breakfast and dinners were Indians. On the go, we, looked for Indian lunches. One day, out guide, Mr. Chin Chow suggested for an authentic Bhutanese lunch at a local household. I jumped at the offer to taste vegetarian local meal. Having a food at someone's home and not a restaurant was a great opportunity to mingle with local people and understand their culture.
The food was very tasty as its spicy. The main spice was green chillies. Most of the dishes were cooked in cheese and butter.
The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chilies are an essential part of nearly every dish and are considered so important that most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal which is not spicy.
Rice forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are the meats that are eaten most often. Spinach, pumpkins, turnips, radishes, tomatoes, river weed, onions and green beans are commonly used vegetables. Grains such as rice, buckwheat and barley are also cultivated in various regions of the country depending on the local climate.
Our hosts, Rinzig and Jigme served us Kewa dashi, Sag Dashi and Ema Datshi with red rice. Kewa Datshi is potatoes cooked in cheese and chillies. Sag Datshi is the leaves of spinach, radish and mustard cooked with cheese. Ema Datshi is the National Dish of Bhutan. A spicy mix of chillies and the delicious local cheese known as Datshi. This dish is a staple of nearly every meal and can be found throughout the country. Variations on Ema Datshi include adding green beans, ferns, potatoes, mushrooms or swapping the regular cheese for yak cheese.
We all are familiar with momos. These Tibetan-style dumplings are stuffed with pork, beef or cabbages and cheese. Traditionally eaten during special occasions, these tasty treats are a Bhutanese favourite.
Pork cooked with spicy red chillies, known as Phaksha Paa is a local favourite. This dish can also include Radishes or Spinach. A popular variation uses sun-dried (known as Sicaam).
Jasha Maru is a spicy chicken based dish cooked with tomatoes and other ingredients that is usually served with rice.
Red rice is similar to brown rice and is extremely nutritious and filling. When cooked it is pale pink, soft and slightly sticky.
Goep (Tripe) , like most other meat dishes, is cooked with plenty of spicy chillies and chilli powder.
Though the popularity of tripe has diminished in many countries it is still enjoyed in Bhutan.