Cuisines of Bhutan

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Vegetarians Dishes

Ema Datsi is the pinnacle of dishes among the food in Bhutan. It is recognized as the national dish of Bhutan and has seamlessly become a part of Bhutanese culture. As the majority of the populous of Bhutan thrive in cold mountains the spiciness of Ema datsi comes as revitalizing. The beauty of this dish lies in its simplicity. Just about any type of chili or cheese would be good enough to make this dish. The number of combination is limitless. Traditionally large chili is preferred over small ones with local cheese from cow or yak. You could match column A with any part of column B and your answer would be correct all the time.

  Large Dried chilli  Cow cheese
  Small Dried chilli  Yak cheese
  Large green chilli  Goat Cheese
 Small green chilli  Packaged cheese.

Kewa Datsi – If Ema Datsi alone cannot suffice your spicy needs you can also get the taste of Kewa dastsi. The ingredient and recipes are the same as Ema Datsi with the addition of potato (kewa). Just about any type and form of potato can work. It is the most sort after dish in Bhutanese families as it is comparatively less spicy than Ema Datsi and is best suited for young kids.

Kewa Datshi

Shamu Datsi – Shamu means mushroom. Mushroom Datsi is prepared using a variety of mushrooms stewed with water, cheese oil and chili. The principle is the same as Kewa Datsi.

Watch a video on how to make Bhutanese Datsi

Shamu datshi or mushroom datshi

Non-Vegetarians  Delicacies

Meat Datsi

The pure non-vegetarians there are also variations of datsi of meat.

    1. Shakam Datsi- Shakam means dried beef in Dzongkha. This Datsi has finely chopped pieces of dried beef with chili cheese and butter.
    2. Sikam Datsi- Sikam means dried pork in Dzongkha. Sikam Datsi is prepared with finely chopped dried pork along with cheese and oil. It is great for fat lovers but eater’s discretion is advised since oil may not come to everyone’s liking.
    3. Gondo Datsi – The same idea of Shakam and Sikam Datsi is used for making Gondo Datsi but it is usually with less or no broth. Gondo refers to an egg in Dzongkha

Non-veg Bhutanese cuisine

If cheese is not of your preference then there is are other dishes that might grab your attention. Meat Pa is a form of Bhutanese fried dish with no broth.

Shakam Paa– Beef, chili, and most preferably radish is used to make shakam paa. Shakam is one of the most popular dishes in the festive season. The dried beef is pre-boiled before frying to make it soft enough to chew and then it is fried along with the rest of the ingredients.

Beef Dashi

Sikam Paa– Sikam Paa is mostly for fat lovers. The procedure is the same as Shakam Pa but dried pork is added instead of beef. You need to be careful as it will test your oil appetite.

Shikam Datshi

Yak Sha Paa– Yak Sha Paa is mostly rare and can be considered exclusive too. The people with full access to this incredible dish are the nomadic yak herders. Yak Sha Paa is also a popular dish in Tibet as well and basically is a variation of Shakam Pa with yak meat.

Jasha Maroo– Jasha Maroo is the traditional chicken dish. It is cooked with small pieces of chicken mixed with garlic, ginger, chiles, and tomato sauce. Jasha Maroo is quite spicy like most Bhutanese Dish.

chicken curry in Bhutan

Goep– Goep is basically slices of tripe fried with dried chillies and green onion. It can be as spicy as you would want to be and compliments the red rice with shakam or sikam.


The Regional Food

Puta– This Traditional noodle originates from the valley of Bumthang district. Puta is buckwheat noodles usually served with Sichuan pepper, chili or whey. It is made only on special occasions. There is a belief that eating puta would drive away evil spirits as it resembles humans eating live worms.Bhutanese wheat noodle

Selroti- Among the food in Bhutan, Selroti Originated in the neighboring country of Nepal but is a delicacy amongst the southern Bhutanese as well. Selroti is basically a homemade doughnut from rice flour, sugar, butter, cardamom, and cloves. Selroti is prepared on special occasions, especially in the festive season.

Selroti In Bhutan

Fermented Spinach (gundruk)- Another delicacy from southern Bhutan is fermented and dried spinach called gundruk. It is a great way of storing vegetables. It can be the main course or side dish depending on how it is cooked. It can also be turned into simple ezay to be the appetizer.

Gundruk in Bhutan

Hoentay– Hoentay is a traditional dish in Bhutan that originates from the cold valley of Haa. It is made in a festival called Lomba. Lomba for is New Year festival for Haaps. Hoentay is a sweet dumpling made from refined buckwheat flour. It is stuffed with turnip leaves, amaranth seeds, cheese, and butter.

Hoentay from Haa

The Side Dishes

Jaju– Jaju is to Bhutan what Dal (lentils) is to India. It is a common supplement for Bhutanese curry and rice. Jaju basically is a soup made from a mixture of milk, spinach, oil, chili powder and a bit of cheese. The ingredients are boiled together to form a creamy texture.

Tshampa-Tshampa is a dough starch made from wheat flour. Sugar can also be added if there be a need. It can be rolled into a ball or any shape and can be a very good substitute for red rice. Any form of datsi can fully compliment this dish.

Ezay– Ezay, like most food in Bhutan, is full of chilies, it can be considered as a thick hot paste of sauce. It is a great form of appetizer made from any type of chili, tomato, onion, garlic, and cheese.

Lom-Just like gundruk in Southern Bhutan lom is dried turnip popular among northern Bhutanese.

Khatem-Khatem is a side dish that is basically fried bitter gourd which is sliced and fried before being served. It is usually crispy which makes it a great supplement with any of the dishes.

Goen Hogay-Goen means cucumber. Goen Hogay Goen is a Bhutanese salad which you must have guessed by now is supposed to be very spicy. It is a simple mix of sliced cucumber, chili, local cheese, and cherry tomato.

Red Rice– Red Rice is homegrown rice which is scientifically proven to be high in nutritional value. It highly compliments the other Bhutanese dish and is mostly organic as it is cultivated by the local farmers.

The Snacks

Juma – Juma, a traditionally made food in Bhutan from minced meat, rice and mild spices filled into the intestine wrapper. It can either be cooked like regular meat with chili and spices or simply fried in oil for a quick snack.

minced meat, food in Bhutan

Chogo- Chogo, yet another food of Bhutan, is also known as Chhurpi. Chogo is a hard and dried yak cheese that slowly dissolves in your mouth. It can be considered a quick snack as and when required. It would, however, require patience to eat because of the sheer size and hardness of it.

The Beverages

Suja -Suja the tea of the Himalayas. Suja is however different from any form of traditional tea. For starters, the tea leaves are actually burned and fermented into a brick. Salt, butter and milk are churned along with the tea. “Su” means churn and “Ja” means tea. It is a highly sort after drink during the cold winters of Bhutan.

bhutanese butter tea

Ara– Ara is a locally prepared alcohol from barley, rice, maize, millet, or wheat. Ara is usually fermented and sometimes distilled. It is one of the very few alcoholic beverages that can be consumed hot.

Changkey– Changkey is an alcoholic beverage just like ara but is comparatively lighter in alcoholic content. It is basically a porridge of rice, butter, and egg. Changkey is popular amongst women especially young mothers for its protein value.