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What we ate in Bhutan – the Bhutanese cuisine saga

It’s a comfortable melodious rhapsody of aroma and cheese, a unique combination with all organic supplies – that is my one-liner for the Bhutanese cuisine.

Before I went to Bhutan, I studied many blogs and understood that cheese is the main ingredient to all the food in Bhutan (it is true!) and I was really not sure whether I would like that since I do not prefer the normal cheese we get at our Indian markets. Even I was given the idea that food will be spicy over there, again a huge negative point as per my taste buds.

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Cheese and Chillies getting Dried

But I was completely wrong. the cheese used in the food at Bhutan is organic. They also use Yak cheese and it is tasty, less creamy and milkier. The spices used are just the basic ingredients and food is not oily/ destructive to health. On top of that, the vegetables and cereals used as food in Bhutan are all locally sourced and grown organic. Hence the taste of simple potato to exclusive asparagus was just more than an awesome.

Since Bhutan doesn’t have any slaughterhouse, all the meats are exported in from Indian town Jaigaon. Hence you may avoid taking them, although I did not find any issue in the freshness at the few places I had them.

Here is a small list of food that anyone visiting Bhutan must try out:

  • Ema Datshi – Stew made of Chillies and Cheese
  • Khewa Datshi – Stew made of Potatoes and Cheese
  • Shakam Datshi – Stew of Dried beef and Cheese
  • Red Rice – the staple of Bhutan
  • Jasha Maroo or Maru – Spicy Chicken Stew or Curry
  • Phaksha Paa – Pork with Red Chilies
  • Suja – Bhutanese Butter Tea
  • Ara – Traditional Alcoholic Beverage
  • Khur-le – Buckwheat Pancake
  • Puta – Buckwheat Noodles
  • Momo – Cheese momos, mixed with spices, are also a popular option
  • Dried Yak Cheese – you can get this at any of the road-side stalls

Where we Ate & What?

At Phuentsholing:

1. Zomkey Restaurant and Bar – Just opposite to the Immigration Office, this place is basic with good food. Indian Food is available and we had Daal, Roti and Sabji (Lentil, Wheat Bread & Vegetable curry)

2. Urban Kitchen – This has a nice café ambience, where you can enjoy your drink looking out at the street and the temple nearby. The staff here was really helpful as he advised us with the food according to our need. On the 1st day, we had only Thukpa, Coffee shake and Tea for dinner to keep it light. While returning, on the last day of the trip, we indulged with some Beef Shafta, Corn bhel & Datshi accompanied by local wine.

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Paksha Paa @ Urban Kitchen

At Thimpu:

1. Army Canteen – On the way towards Thimpu. Yes, this is the Indian Army canteen, equipped with Indian Rajma chawal, to Dosas – all tasty and at good rates.

2. Druk Dawat Restaurant and Bar – We wanted to taste a local wine with some good non-veg Bhutanese food. The market was closed for Tuesday – the dry day and we were literally hungry as we had been searching for a place to booze. When we got this, we were not sure about the food. But when we left, we were happily high with food and wine. We had Kewa Datshi, Shakam Datchi and Red rice accompanied with Peach Wine Zumzin. Zumzin has a fruity flavor and is really smooth.

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Red Rice, Shakam Datshi & Khewa Datshi (anti-clockwise) at Druk Dawat

3. Bhutan Kitchen – While searching for a dinner place, we got this. The authentic old-world ambience is really attractive, but it only offers Vegetarian food. As we were looking for tasting some non-veg, couldn’t check into this place.

4. Mezze – It is a good pub kind of place in Bhutan, but we did not try as the place was closed on that day as it was a dry day.

5. Chula Restaurant – You can also try this place for some authentic Bhutanese food, but they don’t serve alcohol.

At Paro:

After Thimpu, when we were happy with the food, we got into Paro and was blown away with its authenticity towards the cuisine.

1. Lollipop Restaurant and Bar – A buffet @Rs 430 per head, we had all and everything – from red rice to noodles, from varieties of datshi to chicken curry. A special mention has to be for the bowl of asparagus that I fell in love with.

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From Broccoli to Asparagus – all were so fresh! @ Lollipop, Paro

2. Mountain Café – Located on the main shopping street of Paro, it remains crowded with the tourists most of the time. This place serves good Indian food and some local food also. It has good offerings of local-made desserts too. The only con about this place is the price.

3.Ugyen Village Homestay – Our driver took us to this place. Our plan was to take a hot stone bath. So on a package, we got the dinner buffet also at Rs. 1000 around per head. The food is home-made, with ultimate taste and variety. I was so overwhelmed that I forgot to take any picture. We even tasted the locally made wine – Ara here.

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Suja @ Simply Bhutan

We had also tasted Suja – the butter tea before in Thimpu at the Simply Bhutan museum. It was salty, warm and felt more like drinking soup.

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Red Rice with some Datshi
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Momo – any time favorite, with Chicken Manchurian
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Honey dipped finger potatoes with Vegetable Datshi @ Thimpu

You may check this blog of Migrationology for details on Bhutanese food https://migrationology.com/bhutanese-food/ .This one helped me a lot on getting an idea and knowing what I can eat.

For more details on our Bhutan trip, check: A complete guide to visit Bhutan – on your Budget

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