The cuisine of Bhutan is, basically, peasant food and owes much of its flavor to the addition of chillies and cheese in almost every dish.
Rice forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals and is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are eaten most often and are usually served in the form of stews (tshoem), with a wide variety of fresh vegetables and spices like cardamom, ginger, caraway and turmeric.
Vegetables commonly eaten include spinach, pumpkins, turnips, radishes, tomatoes, river weed, onions and green beans. Dairy foods, in particular butter and cheese from yaks and cows, are very popular. Grains such as rice, buckwheat and barley are also cultivated in various regions of the country depending on the local climate.
Some of the most popular Bhutanese dishes:
- Ema Datshi: The National Dish of Bhutan is a spicy mix of chillis and the delicious local cheese known as Datshi. Variations on Ema Datshi include adding green beans, ferns, potatoes, mushrooms or swapping the regular cheese for yak cheese.
- Momos: These Tibetan-style dumplings are stuffed with pork, beef or cabbages and cheese. Traditionally eaten during special occasions, these tasty treats are a Bhutanese favourite.
- Phaksha Paa: Pork cooked with spicy red chillis. This dish can also include radishes or spinach. A popular variation uses sun-dried (known as Sicaam).
- Hoentoe: Aromatic buckwheat dumplings stuffed with turnip greens, datshi (cheese), spinach and other ingredients.
- Jasha Maru: Spicy minced chicken, tomatoes and other ingredients that is usually served with rice.
- Red Rice: This rice is similar to brown rice and is extremely nutritious and filling. When cooked it is pale pink, soft and slightly sticky.
- Goep (Tripe): Like most other meat dishes, it is cooked with plenty of spicy chillis and chilli powder.
Some notable restaurants serving the local specialties include:
Although (sweet milk) tea is a popular beverage in Bhutan, most people prefer Sura. This salted butter tea is served on all social occasions. Tsheringma is a herbal tea made in Bhutan. The tea consists of only two ingredients - petals of the Safflower plant known as Gurgum and the bark of the root from the plant, Cinnamomum tamala or Indian bay leaf (known locally as Shing-Tsha).
Chang is the local beer. Ara, or Arag, is a traditional alcoholic beverage consumed in Bhutan. Ara is made from rice, maize, millet, or wheat, and may be either fermented or distilled. The beverage is usually a clear, creamy, or white color.
Tuesdays have been declared ‘dry days’, as in alcohol free, by the Bhutanese Govt.
Popular pubs and bars in Thimphu include: