Prepare to be surprised by the food in Bhutan. The country’s cuisine takes some of its influences from neighboring countries including China and Nepal, but Bhutan’s rich, spicy signature dishes are unique. Vegetarians and carnivores alike can eat like kings in Bhutan, and foodies know the country for its complex, layered flavor profiles – many of which star the same ingredient.
Bhutan’s Spice Profile
Chili lovers, get thee to Bhutan. Most of the country’s most famous and beloved dishes are made with chilies of varying kinds, including fresh green chilies, dried red chilies and white chilies. Coriander, ginger, garlic, curry and turmeric also feature heavily in Bhutanese cooking.
Signature Dishes of Bhutan
No visit to Bhutan is complete without at least one bite of ema datshi. Its name literally means chilies and cheese, which is exactly what this stew is made of. Often served with red rice, ema datshi is a dish for which many Bhutanese families have their own secret recipes. The cheese is generally made from the milk of local yaks or cows. This local cheese features heavily in Bhutan’s cuisine. It’s cooked with potatoes, eggs, dried beef and other proteins in a variety of traditional dishes.
Dumplings called momos are one of Bhutan’s other beloved staples, and one of the country’s most common street foods. They’re filled with meat, cabbage and/or cheese and plenty of spices.
Other popular dishes include spicy chicken stew and stir-fries made with pork, beef or tripe and vegetables. Salty butter tea, called suja, is a local delicacy.
Eating Well in Bhutan
Tourists don’t go hungry in Bhutan. For one thing, the daily tariff imposed on all tourists includes the price of food. It also helps that local chefs are generally willing to tailor the spice level of their dishes to suit the palates of tourists who aren’t accustomed to eating so many chilies.
Get comfortable eating with your hands! That’s the traditional way of eating in Bhutan. It’s common to wash your hands before eating, but visitors may want to carry antibacterial hand wipes too. Expect to enjoy some meals while sitting on the floor. And tourists in Bhutan’s capital city must visit the Centenary weekend market. It’s the best place to get up close and personal with the sights and smells of local ingredients.
Getting hungry? Take your taste buds on a wild ride through Bhutan. Reach out to FS Travel Advisors to start making plans for your next trip!