Eating and Drinking in Bhutan

Most of the good Bhutanese restaurants are the ones found in the hotels themselves. The most preferable way to eat in restaurants of Bhutan inside a hotel is to opt for elaborate Buffet-style servings. Rice and vegetables with lots of chili, especially ‘Ema-Datsi’ (National Dish consisting of chili and cheese) is the traditional and staple meal of the people of Bhutan. Bhutanese menus offer a wide variety of fresh vegetables such as cauliflower, fern, cabbage, potatoes, spinach and onions, red and white rice, meats, poultry and fish. Tibetan moms and noodle dishes are quite popular in Bhutan too.

However, professional Bhutanese chefs make their food more suitable for western palate by keeping the use of spices under control while preparing Continental and Chinese dishes. Besides the traditional Bhutanese food, you may also try Tibetan and Indian cuisines in Bhutan. In the wilderness of Bhutan, pork fat is quite popular because of its high-energy content but visitors may find it stale and inedible. Fresh cheese is a common ingredient used while cooking vegetables in Bhutan. Buckwheat replaces rice in central Bhutan and buckwheat pancakes and noodles in Bumthang region are famous. Suja (butter tea) and Ara (local spirit brewed from rice, wheat or corn) are common beverages in Bhutan.

You may find unusual ingredients in Bhutanese vegetarian dishes such as nettles, orchids and mushrooms. Bhutanese people love to chew ‘doma’, known as ‘paan’ in India, but visitors may not relish it much. Food provided to travelers is generally bland as opposed to local food, which is very hot and spicy, but it is best to make your request clear before you order the food. Menu on a cultural tour is quite elaborate and often consists of:

Eating

Ema-datsi: Ema means chili and datsi is a kind of cottage cheese, so ema-datsi is a kind of spiced-up Welsh rarebit.

Kewa-datsi:  A potato, cheese and chili dish.

Shamu-datsi: A mushroom, cheese and chili dish.

Mutter paneer: Though not a Bhutanese dish, this Indian staple of curried peas and cheese is readily available throughout Bhutan and is therefore an additional choice for vegetarians.

Cheese momo: A small steamed bun that traditionally contained cheese, cabbage and sometimes onion. However, these days other vegetables, including green papaya, may be substituted for cabbage.

Khuli Buckwheat pancakes:  A specialty of Bumthang. They are often served with ema-datsi as an alternative to rice.

Puta: A dish of buckwheat noodles usually served with curd - a specialty of Bumthang
Imtrat run canteens that sell excellent Indian dishes along with tea from 9.30AM to 4.30PM. The quality of the food is very good, while the price is low. The canteens are located throughout the country, especially along main highways.

Drinking

Ara: A local spirit brewed from rice or corn. It is popular in rural areas.

Tea:  Located next to the tea growing regions of Assam and Darjeeling, a steaming cuppa remains the popular drink in Bhutan, with both the butter variety (suja) and sweet milk kind (cha) readily available throughout the country.

Coffee: The coffee culture that has swept most of the planet is just beginning to creep into the country. However, for the most part, coffee in Bhutan means the instant variety and it is served simply white or black.

On a Trekking trip, you are usually served:

For Breakfast: Canned juice with choice of orange, mango, pineapple, apple etc., Porridge/cornflakes/cereals, Fresh fruits, Sausages/bacon, Eggs, Tea/Coffee

For Lunch: Vegetable cutlet/sandwich/boiled potato, Chicken roast/roast beef, Boiled eggs, Roti / Naan, Fresh fruits, canned juice, boiled drinking water

For Dinner: Soup, Salad, Rice, Noodles, 2 Non-vegetable items, 2 Vegetable items, Desert, Tea/Coffee

For Evening Tea: Tea/Coffee, Cookies/sandwich, Biscuits

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