Ever heard of Ema Datsi? Served with red rice, this super-hot cheese & chili combination is omnipresent in Bhutanese house. Because it is so spicy, beads of perspiration may rain down your face and the linings of your mouth may be bruised but you will never forget this experience. The variety of food served in Bhutan is in fact staggering. You can have buckwheat pancake and noodles in Bumthang, a specialty dumpling called Hoentoey in Haa, boiled corn grits (kharang) in the eastern region or savor mainstream courses like chicken chili (Jasha Maru) or dried pork (Sikam) or beef (Shakam), there is seemingly no end to the choices. All the dishes are spicy, purportedly evolved because of Bhutan’s cold climatic conditions.
Demography: first time travelers / food critics & lovers
Duration: 5-15 days
Best to visit: Throughout the year
- Enter the Haa valley and sample Habi Hoentoey, a dumpling made of numerous ingredients and considered a delicacy that is served only on special occasions. Also try Habi Ruto (hardened cheese), Suja (salted butter tea) and Ezey (Bhutanese salad made with chili as the main additive)
- In Thimphu, Paro, Punakha and Wangdue valleys, get yourself familiar with the popular everyday meals taken by Bhutanese such as red rice, dried beef curry, pork curry, and varieties of curries served with chili and cheese as the main ingredient. There are also numerous dishes made out of a combination of vegetables. In Wangdue, one specialty you should not miss is the Nya Dogsem (salted, puffed and dried local river fish)
- In Bumthang, you can join a local family and partake in the preparation of Khuli (buckwheat pancake) and Puta (buckwheat noodle). Also try mushroom dishes, the best among which is the Matsutake delicacy.
- The best culinary experience perhaps awaits you in eastern Bhutan. There are several local specialties such as – among many others – Kharang (ground corn/maize), Yomri Thukpa (a broth made of maize or rice flour), fried cheese, and Khuri (dough-like paste made of pumpkin or vegetables), Tegma (fried and flattened corn grit or rice), and Handa (a hardened sticky rice made only in Radhi village, Trashigang). The east’s best offering lies in alcoholic beverages, the most famous of which is ara (home-brewed alcohol made from corn, rice or buckwheat. Others are Sinchang (a soft beer-like drink) and Bangchang, a drink extracted from fermented corn.
- See the vegetable markets in Thimphu (the capital) where all the ingredients that go into making Bhutanese dishes can be seen.