Whenever I am traveling, the thought that lingers in my mind other than exploring the place is food. I am constantly in search of local cuisine, signature dishes, a variety of spices used and the unique flavors. This time my search for unique favors brought me to Bhutan-The land of dragons.With 70% greenery and terrific master peace like Tigers nest Monastery to its credit, Bhutan boasts of its culture, heritage, architecture and natural beauty. But the experience of Bhutan will remain incomplete if we do not talk about its cuisine.
Though you get a lot of eateries serving Indian and Chinese food, the actual Bhutanese cuisine is quite different. Little things like use of chilies as a vegetable rather than just a spice, generous use of cheese in most of the dishes and use of wooden bowls to serve their food makes the dining one of a kind experience.
The most popular dishes of Bhutan
Kewa means chilies in their local language and datshi means cheese. This is a simple dish of sliced green or red chili in a thick white sauce made with cheese. This Is the most popular dish of Bhutan but has a lot of variety to it. Some prepare it with fresh green chilies and some with dry red chilies. In some restaurants, its quite dry and some serve it in a thick rich gravy form. They are light empowering the taste of the chilies and cheese.
Ema datshi is similar to Kewa datsi except, now chilies are replaced by potatoes. It is comparatively less spicy. In someplace they use chilies as well. The chilies and potatoes balance the heat and the cheese complements the taste very well.
Another variation to it is Shamu Datshi ie mushroom and cheese.
If you are a non-vegetarian you can try
Sakham ema datshi– curry made with beef, chili and cheese
Gonda datshi– scrambled eggs with butter and cheese
Most of these curries taste the best with their authentic red rice. It is somewhat similar to the red rice we get in southern India but tasted totally different with the above dishes mentioned above. You also get the regular white rice but if you want the original flavors of Bhutanese cuisine, you should try them with red rice
Goen hogay is a traditional Bhutanese salad made with small pieces of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, some spicy chili flakes, and cheese to enhance the flavor and texture.
Zaow is a popular snacking item of Bhutan. These are crunchy puffed rice served as munchies.You can enjoy them with tea or drinks. Its also quite a nice time pass while travelling.
Suja or butter tea is a must try refreshment when you are in Bhutan. This is made with a tea concoction and butter. It is quite salty to taste but it has quite a soothing effect. The saltiness of Suja took me to surprise initially but later I realized the butter that adds to the saltiness keeps you warm and helps you cope with the cold of Bhutan.
These are small cubes of very hard cheese made from Yak milk. Its a very common snack in Himalayan regions. I also came across these hard cheese cubes during my Sikkim trip. Its mildly sweet and very very hard to chew. You have to literally chew it for hours for it to melt. Avoid having them if you have a migraine.
Summing it up
Bhutan introduces me to a new world of food. I was quite awestruck to see that two neighboring countries that are separated just by a gate can show such striking differences. To see the beautiful contrast in such a small vicinity was quite an experience.
Let me know about the dishes you had tried during your trip to Bhutan.
If you want to know about the specialty of Coorg, click Flavours of Coorg
To know about my offbeat travel destination click Varkala- offbeat beach destination of Kerela.