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Experience the flavours and tastes of Bhutan

Travelling to Bhutan is a once in a lifetime experience enhanced by the exquisite food of this amazing country. Here is a quick guide about 7 of the “must eat meals” that Bhutan has to offer.

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1.    Ema datshi

This is the most famous dish in Bhutanese cuisine and a staple of almost every meal. It is made from chilli peppers and cheese; ‘ema’ means chilli and ‘datshi’ means cheese.  Bhutanese use a lot of chilli and cheese in their dishes, and the cheese in this dish is home-made from the curd of cows and yaks.  The fat is removed from the curd to make butter, and the remaining curd without fat is used to make the cheese. The watery liquid left over from the cheese-making process is used as a soup, added to rice. No part of the curd is wasted. It comes in a few variations that include green beans, fiddlehead ferns and mushrooms. Sample this authentic dish at the National Folk Heritage Museum restaurant in Thimphu.

2.    Kewa datshi

This dish is less spicy than ema datshi and also a staple dish in a Bhutanese home.  ‘Kewa’ means potato and ‘datshi’ means cheese.  It is a dish that has been passed down through the generations.

3.    Yak meat

They say once you’ve tasted yak meat, you’ll be back.  The deliciously sweet and delicately-flavoured red meat is juicier than buffalo and elk, and not too gamey. It is a lean protein option and rich in natural oils. Meat dishes are always accompanied by rice, which forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals, or buckwheat and barley.  A delicious variety of vegetables are served as side dishes, usually spinach, pumpkin, turnips, radishes, river weed and green beans.

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4.    Red rice

This is a special variety of rice that is red in colour because it contains anthocyanins.  It has a nutty flavour and is packed with nutritional value.  It has been grown for thousands of years in the fertile soil of Paro valley, and irrigated with 1 000 year-old glacier water rich in trace elements. It is usually paired with mushrooms and hot chillies, and is also used in desserts such as steamed pudding.

5.    Fiddlehead greens

Fiddlehead greens are the furled fronds of a young fern, and used as a vegetable.  They are harvested early in the season before the frond has opened and reached its full height.  It is rich in antioxidants, iron and fibre, and is a valuable source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It also goes by the name of ‘crozier’, after the curved staff used by bishops.

6.    Momos

These are dumplings inherited from Tibetan cuisine.  They are stuffed with pork, beef or cabbage and cheese.  It is a dish usually reserved for special occasions and is a Bhutanese favourite.

7.    Phaksha Paa

Pork cooked with spicy red chillies, and usually includes radishes or spinach.  It is served with aromatic buckwheat dumplings stuffed with turnip greens, datshi (cheese) and mushrooms.

Beverages

Butter tea is a favourite local brew, going by various local names such as suja, po cha or goor goor. It is made from tea leaves, yak butter, water and salt. It’s not everybody’s ‘cup of tea’ as it tastes more like butter than tea.
Bhutanese local beer comes in two varieties.  The white, milder one is called ‘Druk’ and the stronger brew is called ‘Druk 1000.  Bhutan does not have its own bottling plant so you’ll find this ale in Indian Kingfisher bottles that have legally or illegally been brought into India.
Ara is a traditional alcoholic drink that is made from fermented rice.  The liquid is clear like vodka, has a strong smell and taste but possibly an acquired taste.

All these delightful foods are only a trip request away. Lekker Adventures specialises in providing you with the complete travelling experience to Bhutan. Click here to find out more about traveling to Bhutan with the assistance of Lekker Adventures.

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