Bhutan has many many lovely sceneries… from the stunning views of the Himalayas to the gho or Kira-clad Bhutanese going about their daily business, to the monks and mini-monks, and the quaint architecture of their Dzongs and temples. Food was the least of my concerns while I was there.
Vegetarians would likely not complain. Most dishes are non-meat. There isn’t also a good source of seafood outside of those brought in from India. Landlocked, there isn’t much variety in local ingredients. For the whole week I was there, I ate a lot of potatoes, vegetable dumplings and yak meat. All that accompanied by mountain rice and lots of chilies. So if you like all that carbo plus the spicy chili peppers, you won’t have any reason to complain. I guess.
Chilies are a regular ingredient in many dishes in Bhutan, so it’s not surprising that the national food, ema datshi, involves a heavy dose of chilies.
Ema datshi is a curry made of chili and cheese – ema locally means chili, and datshi means cheese – and is eaten almost daily. It is very easy to prepare; cooking time usually takes just around ten minutes. It also requires simple ingredients, such as tomatoes and onions.
Momos are those dumplings much like their Chinese counterparts in appearance. The fillings differ though. The Bhutanese version has vegetables and cheese, accompanied by chili dip. Then someone told me that there was Ema Datshi on the table. I’ve read about this spicy “chili con queso” and hoped it’s asking to my favorite dish of chili relleno. Seems like this is the national dish of Bhutan, the way the locals talked about it. I didn’t waste time trying it, and then……felt I actually turned red — perhaps with nostrils flaring, smoke coming out — after just a spoonful. So. Don’t tell me you were not warned! As they say in Bhutan, “If it doesn’t make you sweat, why bother to eat it?”
On cheese, do remember that Bhutanese love their cheese made from milk from cows, goats or yaks. It is not your typical cheese though. But you’d find them in many dishes. Also, most hotels and dining places serve food buffet style. There would be a variety of choices , for sure. While there, I never hesitated trying the noodle dishes, the leafy green vegetables which looked like they were simply boiled and the potatoes which came in a variety of preparations! Best Bhutanese meal was in a place in Chimi Lakhang in the middle of paddy fields, seated by a window with a perfect view of farmers harvesting their rice. I’m telling you, the scenery certainly ranks higher in importance, regardless of what’s on your plate.
Dishes which I tried in my trip
Tibetan Momos : Chicken Momos
Yak Fried Stuffed Momos
Tibetan Bread – Pun
Naan with Mutton curry
Szechuan Mala Rice Noodles served with roasted peanuts
Cheesy pun for breakfast
Tibetan thali with chicken
Tibetan pun with spicy potato
Yak Chese Sandwhich
carrot cake, with vanilla-caramel ribbon ice-cream, topped with a heavenly sliver of honey comb. Sin never tasted this good!