A Royal Feast In Bhutan

A Royal Feast In Bhutan
Chillies are an essential part of Bhutanese cuisine, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Here’s a list of authentic Bhutanese dishes you must try during your stay at this Buddhist kingdom

Roshni Subramanian
August 27 , 2019
12 Min Read

One must visit the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan to fully understand the meaning of the term ‘extraordinary’. The land-locked nation of Bhutan tucked between the stunning Himalayan range is best known for its monasteries, culture and spirituality. But only few are aware of the culinary influences that its cuisine draws from the neighbouring countries of China, Tibet and India. Bhutan is among the last of the Himalayan kingdoms and displays the perfect blend of tradition and modernity. Their holistic approach to development is evident through their concept of gross national happiness index, The heritage, hospitality, scenic grandeur and most importantly the culinary experience that it offers is one of a kind. Bhutanese food is typically heavy on chillies and meat. So if your spice tolerance is on the lower side, you might want to keep a bottle of water by your side. Try these authentic Bhutanese dishes to experience a burst of flavours like never before.

 Ema Datshi 

Ema Datshi

The most popular Bhutanese dish, ema datshi brings together your love for chilli and cheese in the best way possible. It is the national dish of Bhutan and rightfully so. Ema datshi which literally means ‘chilli’ and ‘cheese’ is a preparation of local green peppers and yak cheese. This dish is typically eaten with red rice and you can also toss in tomatoes and butter to alter the spice quotient.

Kewa Datshi

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If there’s any kind of unconditional love, then it’s the love for potatoes. And this Bhutanese take on ‘cheesey potatoes’ is a love affair we would all love to indulge in. A milder version of ema datshi, kewa datshi is the perfect combination of potatoes and cheese. Thin slices of potatoes with dollops of butter and cheese is the perfect stew recipe for the biting winters.

Shamu Datshi

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As the hogwarts sorting hat would say - another datshi! Well, this one is slightly different. Infused with mushrooms and loads of cheese, shama datshi is the mildest variation available in the datshi family.Well, being a vegetarian and a chilli addict does pay off!

Shakam Datshi

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Meat lovers will find this beef variation of the cheesy stew simply irresistible. Dried beef is diced into tiny pieces and cooked with generous amounts of cheese and butter. Instead of the local green peppers, white chillies are used in its preparation giving it a sour taste. 

Phaksha Paa

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A staple Bhutanese dish made of dried pork and red chillies and served with rice. The pork is first cooked with ginger, radish and red chillies and then added to the stew. While many have their own version of phaksha paa, nothing comes close to the fiery flavour of the authentic Bhutanese fare.

Shakam Paa

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Replace the dried pork with dried beef, and you’ve got yourself a plateful of shakam paa. The dried beef is simmered with potatoes, ginger and radishes. Traditionally cooked in a pot and served along with red rice, shakam paa, is a dish reserved for special occasions like new year. 

Yaksha Shakam

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Dried yak meat or yaksha is often argued to be the best kind of meat available. Maybe even a notch better than beef and pork. Your visit to Bhutan cannot be truly complete without tasting yaksha shakam. Rich in natural oils, yak meat is considered to be a great source of protein.

Jasha Maru

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Be it as a winter morning breakfast or as a midnight snack, chicken stew can be had anywhere anytime. This Bhutanese version of chicken stew has a strong ginger flavour and is cooked with garlic, chillies, tomatoes, onions and lots of coriander. With a base made of the staple chilli peppers, jashu maru or maroo is not for the faint hearted.


Bhutanese momos with ezay

There’s a popular saying - “When in doubt, go for momos”. And we couldn’t agree more. Momos or dumplings are enjoyed all over the Himalayan region, be it Nepal, China or even India. Available at almost every local restaurant in Bhutan, momos are the ultimate comfort food.They can be filled with a variety of stuffing including minced meat, cheese and vegetables. Apart from the steamed version, one can also try fried momos served with ezay made of red hot chilli peppers.


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Could there be anything better than a warm cup of butter tea on a cold winter morning. Well, let us know if you find out because we have no qualms in putting our money on suja. Made with tea leaves, mountain herbs, butter and salt, a cup of suja almost becomes a morning ritual for travellers when in Bhutan. The key ingredients that make suja distinct are yak butter and yak milk. 


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A milk based broth with leafy vegetables, jaju is nothing less than a vegetarian’s delight. A concoction of dried spinach and turnip leaves, milk and butter, an authentic bhutanese meal is incomplete without jaju. Light and mellow in taste, jaju is traditionally served in a large wooden bowl.

Where to eat in Bhutan

Babesa Village Restaurant, Thimpu expressway, near Doutour Tobgyel School, Thimpu 00975 (Tel: +975 17 16 36 60)

Folk Heritage Museum Restaurant, Kawanjangsa, Thimpu (Tel: +975 02327133)

Sonam Trophel Restaurant, Paro Tshondue, above Paro canteen, Paro (Tel: +975 8 271 287)

Zombala 2 Restaurant, Norzin Iam Thimpu (Tel:  +975 2 324 307)

Bhutan Kitchen, Gatoen Lam, Thimpu (Tel: +975 17 61 35 15)

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