May 25, 2017

Chilies have a starring role in Bhutanese cuisine, and locals eat chillies like vegetables rather than seasoning, washing it down with 'Saju' or butter tea, 'ara' - the Bhutanese version of rice wine, or the nation's very own Druk beer.

The Good City's Editor-in-Chief, Sandhya Mendonca, took a trip to Bhutan recently, and inspired Marcelle Symss to try out some Bhutanese recipes. Give these a go at home, and get a taste of this Himalayan Kingdom.

Now, let's get cooking!

1. Ema Datshi, a spicy chilly-cheese preparation that is also Bhutan's national dish.


The bowl full of chillies is Ema Datshi; served here alongside asparagus, potatoes, chicken, and buckwheat pancakes. Image Source

What you need:

  1. 250gms of medium spicy, green chillies
  2. 1 onion, chopped longitudinally
  3. 2 tomatoes
  4. 250 gms grated cheese
  5. 5 cloves of garlic, finely crushed
  6. Handful of fresh coriander
  7. 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
  8. 400 ml water

What to do:

  1. Cut chillies longitudinally into four pieces.
  2. Add 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil to a pot of approximately 400 ml water.
  3. Add the chillies and onions, boil for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add tomato and garlic, boil for another 2 minutes.
  5. Add cheese, and let it boil a further 2-3 minutes.
  6. Finally, add coriander and turn off the heat. Stir, and then keep it covered for 2 minutes.

Pro tip: This is best served on the side with a portion of red rice, and another main.


2. Chili Chicken with Red Rice, a spicy, but healthy stir-fry that's another Bhutanese classic.

Bhutanese Chilli Chicken with Red Rice. Image Source

What you need:

  1. 500 gms boneless, skinless chicken breast
  2. 250 gms whole grain red rice
  3. 60 gms corn starch
  4. 5 tablespoons sesame oil
  5. 1/2 cup red onions, sliced lengthwise
  6. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  7. 125 gms of red, hot chillies, chopped
  8. 45 gms ginger, minced
  9. 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  10. 2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges

What to do:

  1. Cook whole-grain red rice according to package directions in unsalted water.
  2. Cut the chicken into cubes and toss with corn starch, making sure all pieces are fully coated.
  3. Heat 3 tablespoons of sesame oil over medium heat in a non-stick wok or skillet.
  4. Toss in the chicken and cook until the pieces are evenly browned, and slightly crispy. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  5. In the same wok, add another half tablespoon of sesame oil and heat.
  6. Add sliced onions, minced garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  7. Add chopped peppers and cook another 2 minutes.
  8. Add the chicken back to pan.
  9. Add sliced tomato wedges.
  10. Season with soy sauce.

Serve over a bed of the cooked red rice.


3. Soup with Chicken, Red Pepper, Asparagus, and Wild Rice, best made with fresh, organic produce.

A warm, brothy soup with chicken, asparagus, peppers, and other veggies. Image Source

What you need:

  1. 1 chicken breast (with bone & skin)
  2. 1 red pepper, chopped
  3. 10 stalks of asparagus, cut into 1" segments
  4. 1 onion
  5. 4 cloves of garlic
  6. 8 cups of water
  7. 1 cup organic cooked wild rice
  8. 1 cup organic cooked long grain rice
  9. Sea salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

  1. In a roasting pan, oven roast the chicken breast along with 4 crushed cloves of garlic and 1 chopped onion on 400 degrees, until you see a light caramelisation on the pan.
  2. In the last 15 minutes of roasting, add the asparagus segments and the chopped red pepper.
  3. Remove from the oven and let the chicken breast cool.
  4. Add the vegetables, and all the caramelisation from the roasting pan into a soup pot with the water for the broth.
  5. Shred the chicken breast and add it to the soup.
  6. Add the two kinds of cooked rice.
  7. Simmer for 30 minutes, add salt & pepper to taste.


4. Kewa Phagsha, a mouth watering spicy pork and potatoes dish:

Kewa Phagsha - a spicy pork and potato dish. Image Source

What you need:

  1. 350 gms of pork (thigh), chopped into medium sized chunks
  2. 2 potatoes peeled, and cut longitudinally into 6-8 pieces each
  3. 3 green chillies, cut longitudinally into 2 pieces each
  4. 1/2 onion
  5. 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  6. 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  7. 1 piece of ginger, finely chopped
  8. 1/2 tablespoon canola oil
  9. 400 ml water

What to do:

  1. Bring 400 ml of water to boil in a sauce pan with a bit of salt.
  2. Add the chunks of pork, and boil for 20 minutes. Pork should get thoroughly cooked, till soft.
  3. Add the potatoes, chillies, onion and ½ teaspoon of canola oil to the pork. Cook until potatoes are 75% cooked.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 3-4 mins. Stir.
  5. Add pepper or coriander seasoning to taste.

Pro tip: Vary the amount and type of chilli according to your tolerance or taste.


5. 'Suja' or Buttered tea – this may not be everyone's cup of tea, but give it a go on a rainy day.

The locals wash all the food down with 'suja' or butter tea. Image Source

 What you need:

  1. 4 cups of water
  2. Plain black tea
  3. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  4. 2 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted)
  5. 1/3 cup milk
  6. You will also need a churn, or a blender.

What to do:

  1. Bring four cups of water to a boil.
  2. Add the tea and boil to your preferred strength.
  3. Add the salt.
  4. Add the milk.
  5. Now, add the butter into the tea.
  6. Churn, or blend the mix till it foams.

For more such scrumptious DIY recipes, check out our food and drinks category.