Traditional Bhutanese food has been influenced by its neighbors, especially China, Tibet, and India. But like the country itself, the local cuisine has been able to maintain its unique character. When you travel to Bhutan, try this list of popular traditional foods in Bhutan at least once. Now, let’s start with us!
Popular Traditional Foods in Bhutan
1. Ema Datshi
If there is one national dish to eat when touring Bhutan, it is ema datshi. It’s so ubiquitous that some say if you haven’t eaten ema datshi, you haven’t been to Bhutan. The locals eat the stew, which is similar to a curry, daily along with red rice.
It’s made of green, yellow or red chilies, yak or cow’s milk cheese, onions, and tomatoes. Taste very carefully, though. The chilies of Bhutan are high up on the Scoville Heat Scale and are meant to make you warm enough to sweat.
2. Jasha Maroo
Jasha Maroo is one of the popular traditional foods in Bhutan you must try.
Although this mix of chilies, onion, tomato, garlic, coriander leaves, and ginger is usually made with finely diced chicken, you will occasionally find it made with beef.
Though often called a stew, there’s actually a hefty portion of liquid (chicken broth) in the finished dish. Like most Bhutanese food, it is served with red rice.
3. Shakam paa
Shakam paa is a wonderful Bhutanese food of dried beef cooked with dried chilies and sometimes slices of radish.
During my month stay in Bhutan, shakam paa quickly became one of my favorite protein dishes of choice. Again, the beef is slightly chewy from being dried and preserved, and it’s combined with lots of dry chilies.
4. Yaksha shakam
If there’s a meat that can be argued as better than dried beef, it’s dried yak meat. Yak is similar tasting to beef, but it has a little bit of a different fragrance (without being too gamey), and it supposedly is quite nutritional.
For yaksha shakam, the yak meat is dried into jerky-like meat and it can be cooked in a number of different ways. One of the best versions of dried yak meat that I ate in Bhutan was dried yak cut up and cooked with fermented yak cheese. It was a Bhutanese dish of dreams.
5. Red rice
Except for the Bumthang region where buckwheat food items are more popular, red rice is one of the staple foods of the Bhutanese people. It is a medium-grain variety of rice that is grown in the Kingdom in the Eastern Himalayas. It has been grown for a number of years in the fertile soil of the Paro Valley which receives the benefit of mineral-rich glacier water. It cooks faster than other rice varieties because it is only partially milled, i.e. some of the bran is left on the rice and after being cooked acquires a reddish-brown tinge.
Being gluten and wheat-free and rich in minerals, it is highly nutritious as well. This rice is very earthy and nutty to taste and goes very well with dishes that have a bold flavor. The Bhutanese often accompany this with dishes containing mushrooms and chilies.
7. Jaju Soup
Jaju is a traditional Bhutanese soup, generally served along with other dishes aside. It is made up of green leafy vegetables like local spinach, or even turnips. The broth is prepared with milk and butter. Sometimes, cheese is also added to the preparation to make it heartier, and tastier.
If you love tripe, goep in Bhutan, slices of tripe stir-fried with dried chilies, green onions, and sometimes small vegetables, is an excellent dish.
Just like so many other famous Bhutanese dishes, what I liked most about eating goes in Bhutan are all the dried chilies that are included in this dish. The tripe can be a little on the chewy side, but that’s the real texture of the tripe.