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Bhutanese Cuisine

Bhutanese Cuisine

Nestled in the Eastern Himalayas Bhutan is a beautiful harmonious country that offers a great picturesque landscape. The country is also known as the Land of Thunder Dragon. Bhutan shares its international border with the Autonomous Region of Tibet in the North, with China and the Indian states of West Bengal and Sikkim in the West, and with Indian states of West Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in the South and East. Thimphu serves as the capital of the country and is also the largest city in the nation.

Being a pristine destination the country entices tourists from all over the world. The elevation of Bhutan surges from 660ft from the south to 23,000ft in the north. With such variation in altitude, the climate of Bhutan varies accordingly. Fortunately, the tourist destinations of Bhutan lies in a higher altitude with a cooler climate and thus provides relief from the hot and humid weather of the plains. Due to such variations in the climate the country has refined enriching biodiversity.

 

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Bhutan has a constitutional monarchy as its political system. The then king transferred most of the administrative power to the Cabinet Council. Since 2008 Bhutan has been ruled by King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck. Bhutan is also marked as the initial country to bring in the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNP) instead of GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

Generally, the staple food of Bhutan is rice. Like all other places, the Bhutanese Cuisines also have their own variations. Folks of Bhutan are immensely in love with spices which significantly comes in the variety of Bhutanese Cuisines. Keeping a piece of knowledge about the topmost Bhutanese Cuisines will help you to smack your taste while you are on an outing at Bhutan.

Ema Datshi

In Bhutanese language “Datshi” connotes cheese. The cheese used in Bhutanese Cuisines are of special nature which doesn’t dissolve in water. This variety of cheese is rare and hardly found outside the nation. People of Bhutan use this unique cheese in most of their dishes.

 

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Ema signifies chillies in Bhutanese dialect. Ema Datshi is a stew-like food that is prepared using chillies and cheese. The chillies are slit lengthwise and the seeds are removed. The chillies are then mixed with Datshi (the special cheese of Bhutan), garlic, water and oil to form the dish. It is the most popular food in Bhutan. However, for some, this dish may prove to be spicy as the main ingredient remains chilly.

Shakam Datshi

Shakam Datshi is another variation of Datshi dishes. Shakam which means dried beef is a popular food of Bhutan. Shakams are dried but not fully dehydrated and then fermented with cheese and butter to prepare this Bhutanese Cuisine.

 

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Kewa Datshi

Kewa literally means potatoes in Bhutanese language. Potatoes are thinly sliced and mixed with chillies, garlic, water and little oil to form this Bhutanese Cuisine. Sometimes tomatoes are added to add an extra flavour to the dish.

 

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Shamu Datshi

Shamu Datshi is prepared out of mushrooms in the same process of Shakam Datshi. All of these Bhutanese Datshi foods are commonly consumed with different varieties of rice.

 

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Red Rice

Red rice continues to serve as the main staple food of Bhutan. Except for Bumthang, Red Rice is available throughout the country. Red Rice is generally cultivated in the Eastern Himalayas. In Bhutan, it is produced in the arable valley of Paro. This rice cooks faster than any other category of rice as it is moderately milled.

 

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Red rice is rich in nutritional values. This rice goes hand in hand with any sort of dishes that have a boiled essence. Bhutanese people generally consume this rice with any of the variety of Datshis.

Maru

Maru or Jashu Maroo is an authentic food of Bhutan. It is a spicy curry prepared out of diced chicken. Along with the chicken, onion, ginger, garlic, coriander leaves, chillies and tomato are used to make the dish. The use of ginger adds an extra essence to the dish. Maru is generally served with Red Rice or any other forms of rice. This dish can also be prepared with beef instead of chicken.

Paksha Paa

In Bhutanese dialect ‘paa’ indicates gravy. So Paksha Paa refers to pork gravy where Paksha means pork. This Bhutanese Cuisine is prepared with sliced pork meats that are stir-fried with dry red chillies, Bok Choy and ginger.

Bok Choy is a kind of cabbage which has a peppery taste, dark green leaves and a stalk-like a celery plant. Bok Choy is also used to prepare fresh green salads. Paksha Paa is served with rice or any sort of Datshis.

Shakam Paa

Shakam Paa is a variation of Paa dishes. It is made out of beef, dry chillies, onions, potatoes and radish. This item is generally cooked in a pot and is served with rice. Shakam Paa has a high protein value.

 

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Shikam Paa

Shikam Paa another sort of Paa item is made by using sun-dried pork bellies that are fried along with whole dried chillies.

 

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Suja

Tea is often consumed in Bhutan but their tea is a bit different from the one that we generally know. Bhutanese people consume butter tea, which in their dialect is known as Suja. They also refer to it as Goor Goor or Po Cha. This form of Bhutanese tea gives relief in cold weather and is often served after the meals.

 

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Suja is prepared with fermented butter that is made out of fresh yak milk. The fermented butter is then brought to boil with milk and tea leaves. The Bhutanese tea Suja tastes salty and more of a butter than tea. However, Suja can also be prepared with the butter formed from cow’s milk.

Zow Shungo

Zow Shungo is a dish prepared with leftover vegetables. It’s a veg dish and is a good option for tourists who maintain a veg diet. Zow Shungo is one of the most popular Bhutanese Cuisine and is also one of the favourites of the locals. Leftover vegetables and red rice are brewed together to form this Bhutanese dish.

Jaju Soup

Jaju soup is a conventional Bhutanese Cuisine. This item is served as a side dish along with other main course items. The dish is made out of spinach and leafy green vegetables. Sometimes turnips are added to. Butter and milk are added to the above ingredients to prepare the dish. Some people also add cheese to enhance the flavour of the food.

Puta

Bhutanese traditional noodles are known as Puta. This noodle is made from buckwheat and thus seems to be healthier. In Bhutan people generally consume the noodles boiled. Notwithstanding it, the noodles can also be consumed when stir-fried in little oil or when sauteed with some kind of veggies or meat. Apart from rice it also serves as the staple food for the country.

Pancakes can also be contrived from buckwheat. These pancakes in Bhutan are known as Khur-le. The pancakes are ideal for breakfast in places with a cold climate. Khur-le is served with Shakam or Ema Datshi or with sauces.

Jasha Toshem

Jasha Toshem is an aromatic Bhutanese Cuisine that is prepared with beef. This dish comes in the form of stew. Onion, ginger, garlic and peppers are used to flavour up the food. Instead of beef, this dish can also be prepared with mushroom.

Ara

Ara is an authentic Bhutanese alcoholic beverage. Rice, buckwheat, millet, or barley is fermented to prepare this drink. The drink has a clear or whitish appearance and has a very strong aroma. Ara is sometimes heated with egg and butter to form a healthy beverage.

Like Ara, Sinchang and Banchang are also local alcoholic drinks of Bhutan. These two drinks are prepared by fermenting the grains with homegrown yeast.

All the above-named dishes are local foods of Bhutan and can’t be found in any other parts of the world. Once in Bhutan, one must try some of the dishes from the above list to get an experience of the traditional Bhutanese cuisine. All of these dishes can be found in any provincial food joint of the country. Yet to experience it at the best one can try few authentic restaurants of the country like Bhutan Kitchen in Thimpu, San Maru Restaurant, Thimphu; the food parlour of Folk Heritage Museum, Thimphu; Sonam Trophel, Paro.

 

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However, the list of famous Bhutanese Cuisine does not end here. As you explore more of the country you are sure to come across many more exotic dishes of Bhutan that might leave your taste buds tingle with an amazing experience.

About Author

Born and brought up in Kolkata I met Krishnandu in 2012. We fell in love and got married in 2016 and travelled to Bhutan for our honeymoon. We travelled throughout that year to various places and that is when I developed my passion for travelling. After our dream trip to Ladakh in 2018, I started noting down my travel experiences on a random basis. Krishnandu then urged me to pen down travel blogs. So I finally started scripting informative travel blogs that would help you to gain precise information about a destination.

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