Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, is known for its monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys.
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. It’s less oily than Chinese or Indian food and spicier than most Tibetan dishes. When you travel to Bhutan, take this list of our six must-taste Bhutan food items to sample at least once. These are the few dishes a vegetarian can try while travelling to Bhutan.
If there is one national dish to eat when touring Bhutan, this is it. 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.
Momos – (Dumplings)
This is one food that Western travelers may have sampled, since the momo has immigrated to India and is quite similar to the Chinese dumpling. Throughout the Himalayas–from Nepal and Tibet to Bhutan– these steamed buns are eaten as treats. They may be stuffed with almost anything, but the typical fillings are minced pork or beef, cabbage, or fresh cheese mixed with spices such as garlic, ginger and coriander. Hoentay Known especially for originating from Haa Valley in Bhutan, are similar to momos, but they are made with a buckwheat dough wrapper. The dumplings are usually filled with a combination of a local spinach or turnip leaves and cheese
A third staple cheese dish in Bhutanese food is shamu datshi, cheese with mushrooms. ema datshi is my personal favorite variation of a Bhutanese veggie cheese dish, but shamu datshi was a close second. The mushrooms, which can be any variety of local Bhutanese Himalayan mushroom, are again cooked into a cheesy saucy stew along with butter. Just like with all the other variations of Bhutanese datshi, you eat shamu datshi along with rice.
Jaju is Bhutanese milk and vegetable soup. It’s often made with some type of local spinach or turnip leaves or any number of light leafy vegetables. The soup broth consists of milk and butter. Overall, the taste is usually quite mellow and plain, but it goes well together to supplement a full Bhutanese feast.Some others variant also includes a bit of cheese to make them heartier and more rich.
Especially common in the Bumthang region of Bhutan, puta are noodles made from highly nutritious buckwheat that can be grown in high altitudes. For puta, the noodles are prepared and boiled, and sometimes before being served the noodles are stir fried in mustard oil along with a light seasoning of salt and Sichuan pepper. Puta are a traditional Bhutanese staple, and they really reminded me of Japanese soba noodles.
Kewa is potato, so kewa datshi is potatoes and Bhutanese cheese. It surprised me by how similar kewa datshi is to a dish similar to scalloped potatoes. The potatoes are typically sliced into thin pieces, then sautéed down with cheese and lots of butter. Sometimes cooks will toss in a few chilies or tomatoes, but usually, this is a Bhutanese dish that’s pretty mild, but just focuses on potatoes and cheese.
There’s no way, Bhutanese food is complete without paying full respect to ezay, which refers to any kind of Bhutanese chili sauce. Ezay is not really a food… but in Bhutan, eazy is so mandatory to eat with every meal that it can be considered a dish of its own. And sometimes it’s almost more like a salad than a chili sauce. Everyone in Bhutan has their own recipe and combination of ingredients. A couple of it includes dried chilies, Sichuan pepper, tree tomato (amazing ingredient), and a sprinkle of cheese for extra flavoring.Well, these dishes are not just enough.
How can we Indians travel to whole different nations and not try our own cuisine?
Here are top Indian restaurants that serve amazing vegetarian Indian dishes.
1- Chh’a Bistro & Bar -a rustic setting and friendly staff, this bistro and bar has a loyal following of people who love to get together for dinner here. You can enjoy Indian as well as Chinese, Bhutanese and some other Asian dishes here.
Location: Changzamtog, Thimphu
2- The Park Restaurant - Indian Thalis (platters) and what not – if you are craving real Indian food in the country, this is one of the best Indian restaurants in Bhutan to go to. The seating is quite informal and the staff is all smiles. The food is made fresh and tastes homely.
Location: Hotel Park, Phuentsholing.
3- Cypress - This is one of the most preferred Indian veg restaurants in Bhutan as the food tastes fresh and yummy. Their preparation of lentils (daal) and other vegetable curries (Indian sabzis) are usually served with tawa rotis and rice, which the patrons enjoy a lot.
Location: Norzin Lam, Hotel Cypress, Thimphu.
4- Ghasel - One of the only places to get Jain food in Bhutan, Ghasel is a tourist favorite when it comes to typical Gujarati food. Grab your choice of a vegan or vegetarian meal here in the form of Thalis or a-la-carte. This is one of the only pure veg restaurants in Bhutan!
Location: Norzin Lam, Thimphu.
5- Lotus Bistro - One of the best Indian restaurants in Paro Bhutan, you should definitely visit this place for authentic Indian food like daal roti and various curries. The place offers a picturesque view of the surrounding mountains and the river along with scrumptious meals.
Location: Opposite Police Station, Paro
Here's a complete guide for you vegetarians, now you can happily plan your trip to Bhutan without worrying what to eat!