What is the national dish of Bhutan

No visitor to Bhutan leaves without getting an impression of Bhutan's national food: chilli and cheese (Ema datsi). Some like it, some hate it, still others are amazed that the Bhutanese can eat so spicy, and still others are absolutely thrilled. Everyone forms their own opinion about this dish, which is made from the most indispensable vegetable and spice of the Bhutanese, the chilli. Chili and cheese may sound innocent, but it's very, very hot.

Not many Bhutanese can imagine there was a time when there was no chili in their kitchen. And even fewer can imagine that chilli is not a native plant. But their origins in distant South America. It was first introduced in Asia 400 ... 500 years ago. It was a long time before he reached the Himalayas.

The Spaniards and Portuguese introduced the plants to the Old World. While the Europeans were initially not very enthusiastic about the hot plant, it was a "revelation" for the inhabitants of Asia, Africa and the Arab world. Chilli was already grown in India in the 16th century and appeared in the trade catalogs of the major trading companies under the name “Calcutta Chili”. Today India is the largest chilli producer.

From Calcutta, the chilli must have started its triumphal march towards the north. When and how the chilli found its way to Bhutan is in the dark. Once it reached the Bhutanese kitchens, it turned the food culture inside out. Nowadays, no dish - other than baby food and medicinal food - is cooked without chili. Any Bhutanese chef would say that without chili they can't cook at all and most Bhutanese wouldn't get a meal without chili.

Traditionally, parents are proud of their babies when they gradually switch from normal baby food to spicy foods. Parents say to their children, "If you are able to eat chilli, you will grow faster". The children are therefore proud to grow up and, like their parents and grandparents, to eat chilli properly.

The Bhutanese cooks recommend putting the chilli with salt and a little fat in either very cold or boiling water and then boiling it over a high, constant heat. To reduce the spiciness, we recommend adding a little butter or oil. Since the capsacain is fat-soluble, this makes perfect sense. The chillies should not be placed in lukewarm water. It is just as important not to cook the green chilli with the lid on, otherwise they will lose their beautiful green color. Only when you cook dried chili peppers should you cover the pot so that the chilies cook faster.

Similar to Dal Bhat (Lentils with rice) is the staple food for the Nepalese, chili and rice is the staple food for the Bhutanese. For many foreign visitors it is boring to eat only chilli and rice again and again. Mostly it is because you cannot get to know the multitude of different preparation options in such a short time. Also at Ema datsi there are endless possibilities for variation through the different types of cheese and chilli or other ingredients such as garlic, zoidey (Cheese), herbs, etc. The three classic ones Ema datsi Recipes are Fresh Green Chili with Cheese, Dried Red Chili with Cheese and Dried White Chili with Cheese (see recipes).

In every Bhutanese household there is a jar of chili powder next to the salt. In the past, the powder was freshly ground in a mortar for each meal from dried chili peppers. When the hole in the mortar has become deeper and wider and the mortar needs to be replaced, it is customary to hold the same funeral ceremony as that Gewa-Ceremony that is performed on the 21st day after the death of a person.

Bhutanese cooks use salt and chilli (tsa da subject) together as the most important ingredients for every dish. Regardless of the other ingredients, the question usually asked is “Tsa da ema bjonoga?” (Is there enough salt and chilli?).

Chili is a very convenient vegetable: it can be eaten anywhere and anytime, boiled, raw, roasted, chopped, diced, ground or whole. In the summer months, the farmers take some rice or bread and a little salt and some green chillies with them for field work. The chilli is bitten, then dipped in salt and eaten with the bread or rice. A simple dish without a lot of extras.

Bhutanese chilli varieties

The term chili is actually very imprecise, as it is used for a number of species of the Capsicum genus. The two most important are Capsicum annuum and Caspicum frutescens.
In Bhutan, above all, it is growing Capsicum annuum. Various forms have been bred over the centuries. They grow at different heights, look different and of course have different degrees of sharpness.

The three main types in Western Bhutan are:
- Sha Ema: an elongated fruit with a blunt tip and broad body. Length 6… 10 cm. Medium heat
- Begup ema: Long fruit with a pointed end. Narrower body. The length is more than 10 cm. Sharper than Sha ema
- Dogab ema: Long fruit with a sharp tip. Length also more than 10 cm. Very sharp.

There is no fixed classification or determination of the individual varieties. They are generally differentiated according to the area in which they are grown.

As ngalong All chillies in Western Bhutan (west of the Pele La Pass) are called chilies. The best chillies from this area grow in Sha Ridang. They are long and thick and are ideal for pa recipes (long pieces of meat are cooked with radish or mustard leaves and whole chillies). The chillies make a nice contrast to the meat strips and taste good when they have soaked up the meat sauce.

The Wang chilli from the Wangdiphodrang area look like this Sha Chilli, however, are not that hot. Therefore, they are often eaten raw as a side dish or used in salads.

The Begup Punakha chillies are known to be very meaty and are considered by most to be the tastiest chilli in the entire country. Even when dried, they can still be easily recognized by their wrinkled, wrinkled shape. When freshly cooked, they release a typical odor that experts can recognize.

Dolla Chilli is ubiquitous in the south of the country. They are round chillies that are mainly used for pickles.

The musa Chilli or mouse chilli, which are known in Europe as bird's eye chilli and are mainly used in southern Bhutan. These are very small but hotter chillies.

Chilies are mostly sun-dried for storage. In autumn almost all roofs are covered with red chilli peppers to dry, or thick garlands with three-colored chilli are hanging on the house: red, green, white.
Ripe chilies will turn red and will stay red when dried. Green chillies are cut in half and then sun-dried. They keep their green color. The largest green chili peppers are selected and blanched in boiling water for a few minutes. Then they are dried in the sun and get a yellowish color. They are then called shur came (Cooked and dried or white chilli).

Another important characteristic of this exotic cuisine is the enormous consumption of rice. Normal consumption is 5 kg per head per week. And since it is almost the only cultivated grain, rice finds its way into the kitchen from breakfast to dinner. It's either a curry with rice or rice with a curry. Two types of rice are used in Bhutan. The urban areas including Thimpu, Paro and Phuntsholing use the white rice while the rural areas use the red rice. The rice is served in a special bamboo bowl that is made in Keng Province and is called bangchung. It is also a nice souvenir to take home and can also be used as a decoration.
One of the delicacies that are based on rice Desi, a delicious mix of white rice, butter, sugar, raisins, and saffron as well Zow, fried rice with sugar, butter and sometimes sesame seeds. Both dishes are favorites of the Bhutanese King, HRH Jigme Mangchuk, and are served on special occasions. Rice is eaten with the right hand by shaping it into small balls and dipping it in the sauce or mixing it with pieces of meat or vegetables. The pungent taste of the hot peppers often makes the nose rush and the eyes water, but this is only proof of a properly seasoned dish.

However, rice has only recently become a staple food. Until recently, buckwheat flatbreads (Kill) and wheat noodles (Buta, Puta) for the people of Bumthang in central Bhutan it was still the main part of their diet, and in the east of the country it was corn. In most families in southern Bhutan, the maize is dried in young bamboo trees. The dried corn kernels are then roughly made into a kind of corn grits (Kharang) ground. It is then added to leftover curries or a kind of porridge is made (Thukpa, Thuep - with meat and cheese) for breakfast from it.

The Bhutanese have a lucky hand in using wild vegetables from the forests: ferns, bamboo, mushrooms, taro, yams, sweet potatoes, wild beans, banana flower buds and even orchids and dried river kelp are eaten. Soy is only available in certain areas of Eastern Bhutan.

Meat, especially yak meat, is a staple diet for non-vegetarians. Similar to the banana plants in India, all parts of the yaks are used in Bhutan. In addition to the meat, e.g. the milk is dried and cheese is made from it, and the skin is also dried and served as a snack with various drinks. The yak breeders come down from the high mountains in the fall and sell the meat, butter and cheese in exchange for next year's rice. Each yak gives an average of 250 to 260 kg. From the milk of a yak from three to four days, 1 kg of butter or cheese can be obtained. In addition to hanging strips of yak meat or other meat in the gardens in summer, local farmers often hang them in the gardens to dry them in the sun and preserve them. In addition, the dried pieces of meat are tastier, say the locals.

Although the Bhutanese appreciate the consumption of meat, the slaughter of animals is restricted for religious reasons. In Bumthang, a district in Eastern Bhutan, for example, the slaughter of animals is not allowed. But you can eat the meat if the animal is killed by an accident, such as falling off a mountain cliff.

Yak and pork are preferred by the Northern Bhutanese, followed by beef and chicken; Mutton and lamb, on the other hand, are not eaten except in the south of the country. Pork bacon is considered a delicacy.

The normal preparation is meat Pa, a kind of curry. This type of dish is used in Bhutan Tshoem called. Larger pieces of meat are mixed with a lot of vegetables and chiles and then cooked for a long time until the curry is ready, although the term stew is actually more correct. Turmeric or other spices are not used, so the dish retains its normal color. It is often served with fried egg dishes. Zhasonpa is prepared the same way, except that goat meat is used for it. The Bhutanese love too Momos. Although it is a Tibetan specialty, it has become an integral part of Bhutanese cuisine. The momos are usually filled with cheese, but also with chicken or pork.

Let's get back to Ema Datshi. Here is the recipe in brief. To make the cheese, you need the rest of the milk that is left over after buttering. Add some boiling water and simmer until it becomes a yellowish paste. It is fried with butter and sugar to get the cheese - that is, the Datshi. Finally the green chilli peppers and salt are added and cooked through again.

Sometimes the cheese is left to dry for a few days so that it hardens. Then it is cut into pieces and dried in the sun for three to four months. Finally the cheese (Churpi ) rock hard. The small pieces of cheese are then sucked by the Bhutanese (because the cheese can no longer be chewed). And if you see Bhutanese chewing, then they chew this cheese, at least if it's not betel nuts. The Bhutanese say this cheese keeps the body warm. The third type of cheese that is most in demand and hard to come by is from Eastern Bhutan and is called Seudeu. This cheese looks like a gray-green, indefinable mass and is sold in leather bags. Its pungent smell and unsavory appearance will probably put off foreigners unless you are a real cheese lover. It is never eaten raw, but rather fried in small quantities in a broth to make a soup.

Certainly the tastiest and second favorite national dish of the Bhutanese right after Ema datsi called Phagshapa. It consists of strips of pork bacon that are often dried and braised with radishes or turnips and dried chillies. Scrambled eggs cooked in butter are the main ingredient of the dish Gondomam. The Bhutanese salad called Eze (Ezey, Azay) consists of hot peppers, soft cheese, tomatoes and finely chopped onions and is eaten as a side dish. Fresh fish is rarely found, as Buddhism forbids fishing; Dried fish that comes up from the plains into the highlands makes a delicious sauce that is also seasoned with hot peppers. Small pieces of liver, breaded in chilli powder, lungs filled with a certain type of peppers, pork feet and blood sausages stuffed with hot peppers are specialties that you will hardly be able to taste in a single visit.
Thukpa is a noodle soup that is particularly popular in winter, Shabale are called fried dumplings that are filled with minced meat. Trimomo, also a kind of dumplings, but prepared less often, are steamed and served with a soup.

A meal without Doma is considered not completed. Doma is a piece of betel nut, which in Bhutan is not only considered a digestive. Someone Doma to offer is a proof of friendship. Doma is a symbol of conviviality. Ready-made betel nut pieces, packed in small paper bags, are readily available everywhere, but the real betel lover makes his own Doma to. In southern Bhutan will Doma by Supari or fan replaced The cuisine of the south is much less country-specific, it is based heavily on that of India and Nepal. They eat more vegetables, especially onions and lentils, and prefer mutton and chicken.

Sweets and desserts hardly exist with one exception: that is Kabze, differently shaped, dried and baked pieces of egg dough that are specially prepared for festivities. Toasted flour is called Pchje (it's with the Tibetan Tsampa comparable), roasted rice Zao, flattened rice Sip and flattened corn Gesasipwhich is served with tea as an appetizer or for breakfast. You can dip it in the tea.

What do the Bhutanese use to wash down all these hot, spicy foods? The answer is simple. Either with a drink or with tea. There are two types of tea: Seudjamade with salt and butter, and Nadjacooked Indian style with milk and sugar. Coffee, or rather Nescafé, is rarely available. Drinking milk is also a new habit that has not yet become commonplace. In the past, milk was only processed into butter and cheese.
The drink is Era, a local liquor. Macaw is made from the grain available in the region; it can be rice, wheat, or barley. It has about 20% alcohol content. At traditional festivals there is an unusual snack: eggs are fried in butter and then becomes Era trickled over it.

Indian beer is available in all major centers in the country. There is also a single type of beer made in Bhutan, a type of wheat beer, which I didn't like.
There is also whiskey, gin and rum, which are made in Bhutan and are affordable.According to connoisseurs, the whiskey is not bad at all. I also brought a bottle and thought it was good. There is no wine, but local alcoholic beverages, such as Afa and Changwhose production conditions, however, do not always correspond to all western hygiene standards. A distillery in the Bumthang valley produces reasonably priced cider as well as apple and peach schnapps. There is also excellent local mineral water.

There is another strange dish made from yak club in the northern district of Ha and Lingzhi. The entire yak leg is wrapped in a cloth and then left to mature for two to three months and finally served with - of course - chillies and wine. In the Kheng region, raw meat is served with various drinks and the entire village takes part in special festivals. In Bumthang there is a very rare tea that is made from the plant that grows parasitically on oaks "Neshing Jurma" will be produced. Buckwheat, which is a staple food here, is mainly grown in Bumthang. Buckwheat flour or dough is used in many dishes, e.g. in Bumthang putta, Buckwheat noodles with egg strips, spring onions and tomatoes; as Hapai hantue, Buckwheat dumplings filled with pak choi and poppy seeds. In the part of southern Bhutan inhabited by Nepalis people love Shel Roti: Salt and sugar are added to rice flour and made into a paste, which is then fried in hot oil. Meanwhile there are also quite a number of western tendencies in the cuisine of Bhutan. But at festivals, weddings or other traditional celebrations, traditional cuisine is still preferred.