tastily touring: visiting bhutan a ema datshi recipe (hot and spicy)

tastily touring: visiting bhutan a ema datshi recipe (hot and spicy)

The Kingdom of Bhutan, Druk Yul,(”Land of the Thunder Dragon”), is a small, land-locked mountainous nation in Asia, located in the eastern Himalaya Mountains north of India and south of China. Its geographical uniqueness kept out foreign influence which allowed the Bhutanese people to indulge in a policy of isolationism. Bhutan was never colonized, which is a source of pride for the Bhutanese people, a self-sufficient people who had limited contact with the rest of the world.

Bhutanese history may date back to 2000 B.C. Its ancient history was preserved by oral tradition threaded with mythology. In the 7th century A.D. Buddhism took hold in Bhutan. Guru Rimpoche arrived in 747 A.D. “landing” in Taktsang, Paro. (The legend says that Guru Rimpoche flew on the back of a tiger and landed in Taktsang, Paro.) The Taktsang monastery is a revered religious site to this day. Bhutan has a very deeply rooted ancient Buddhist culture that has remained strong due to its centuries of isolation and the fact that its political history is intrinsically tied to its religious history which revolve around the relations between the various monastic schools and monasteries that emerged over its history.

Discord between the various monastic schools and monasteries created a disjointed Bhutan, which in 1616 was consolidated when Ngawana Namgyal, a Tibetan lama codified a system of law and deemed himself the head of both religious and civil administrations. After Namgyal’s death fighting and civil war flourished for 200 years, until 1885 when Ugyen Wangchuck, who was elected as the hereditary ruler of Bhutan (essentially crowned the king), was able to consolidate power, create closer ties with British India through the Treaty of Sinchulu. This treaty served as a vehicle that would ultimately allow India (when it was no longer under British rule) to recognize Bhutan as an independent country and in 1949 India and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship.

In 1971 under the leadership of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (son of Ugyen Wangchuck) Bhutan became a member of the United Nations which was the beginning of its emergence from isolation. Today Bhutan has a parliament (2007) and a constitution (ratified in 2008). The Bhutanese people are embracing the modern world, while maintaining their cultural traditions and independent nature.

No matter how Bhutan changes it can still be defined by its incredible geography which creates borders within the country as well as with the outside world. Several distinct cultural groups reside in Bhutan. To the south you will find Nepalese farmers, the Lhotsampa (who are Hindu). In the central region you will find the Drukpa people who tend cattle or farm. And in the north are the semi-nomadic yak herdsmen. And, in the east are the Sharchops.

Several languages are spoken in Bhutan. About 28% of the population speaks Sharchhopka. The official language is Dzongkha, but only about 24% of the population speaks Dzongkha. There is also Lhotshamkha 22%, other 26% (2005 Census).

Despite the regional differences the food of Bhutan is quite similar for all Bhutanese people even with regional differences, most Bhutanese dishes are boiled using water and either oil or butter and the diet is rich in meat (pork, beef and yak), poultry, dairy, rice (red and white) and chilli peppers. Yes, chilli peppers and lots of them. Bhutanese don’t heavily season their food, instead they add chilli peppers to many of their dishes. Chilli peppers are eaten cooked and raw. The national dish, which seems to be agreed upon by every Bhutanese site explored, is called “ema datshi”, a very hot dish made with the beloved chilli pepper.

This fun {video} link will give a bit of an insight to the love of the chilli pepper in Bhutan.

Ema Datshi
(Recipe from Kunzang Namgyel: “Some say that if you have been to Bhutan but have not eaten ema datshi then you have not been to Bhutan.”)

Ingredients

8 oz chillies (green and of medium hotness, cut lengthwise)*
1 onion, chopped lengthwise
2 tomatoes
8 oz Danish Feta cheese**
5 cloves of garlic, finely crushed
3 leaves of cilantro
2 tspn vegetable oil
4 cups cooked red or white rice

Directions

1. Put the chillies and chopped onions in a pot of water (about 12 ounces). Add the vegetable oil. Then boil on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add tomato and garlic and boil for another 2 minutes.
2. Add cheese and let it remain for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add coriander and turn off the heat. Stir. Put a lid on the pot for another 2-3 minutes.
4. Serve on red or white rice.

1. This dish is REALLY HOT!
2. The cheese that is actually used cannot be found outside Bhutan. Farmers cheese or feta cheese are good substitutes.

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20 comments

  • March 26, 2012 at 5:01 pm //

    i love how you’re always interested in all these forgotten places! :)

    • March 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm //

      So happy you are enjoying our posts Jesica.

  • March 26, 2012 at 5:01 pm //

    i love how you’re always interested in all these forgotten places! :)

    • March 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm //

      So happy you are enjoying our posts Jesica.

  • March 27, 2012 at 3:13 am //

    Very interesting – I have never eaten any dishes from Bhutan, and peppers and cheese always sound like a great combination. Thank you for your wonderful insight!

    • March 27, 2012 at 11:15 am //

      If you like spicy Kiri, you’d love this, we might cut back on a few peppers next go around though. Our lips are still burning…

  • March 27, 2012 at 3:13 am //

    Very interesting – I have never eaten any dishes from Bhutan, and peppers and cheese always sound like a great combination. Thank you for your wonderful insight!

    • March 27, 2012 at 11:15 am //

      If you like spicy Kiri, you’d love this, we might cut back on a few peppers next go around though. Our lips are still burning…

  • March 27, 2012 at 9:14 am //

    What an interesting post! I love peppers and cilantro, so this dish sounds wonderful to me!

    • March 27, 2012 at 11:14 am //

      That’s fabulous Jill, this was SOOOOOO hot though…. SPICY!

  • March 27, 2012 at 9:14 am //

    What an interesting post! I love peppers and cilantro, so this dish sounds wonderful to me!

    • March 27, 2012 at 11:14 am //

      That’s fabulous Jill, this was SOOOOOO hot though…. SPICY!

  • March 27, 2012 at 9:58 am //

    Amazing post! Your posts always gives me a feeling of discovery, and a wider perspective on different food cultures. Looking forward to more posts!

    • March 27, 2012 at 11:14 am //

      That is such a cook thing to say, we are so happy you are enjoying our posts and category “Tastily Touring” = )

  • March 27, 2012 at 9:58 am //

    Amazing post! Your posts always gives me a feeling of discovery, and a wider perspective on different food cultures. Looking forward to more posts!

    • March 27, 2012 at 11:14 am //

      That is such a cook thing to say, we are so happy you are enjoying our posts and category “Tastily Touring” = )

  • April 7, 2012 at 4:58 pm //

    I became addicted to this dish whilst in Bhutan. I never found it as hot as I was expecting, but the heat did slowly creepy up on me. Awesome.

    • April 8, 2012 at 9:11 am //

      You’ve been to Bhutan? I bet it was a wonderful experience, heat creeped up on you huh? Were your lips still burning afterward?

  • April 7, 2012 at 4:58 pm //

    I became addicted to this dish whilst in Bhutan. I never found it as hot as I was expecting, but the heat did slowly creepy up on me. Awesome.

    • April 8, 2012 at 9:11 am //

      You’ve been to Bhutan? I bet it was a wonderful experience, heat creeped up on you huh? Were your lips still burning afterward?