10 Jun 2021

Bhutan’s Unique Culinary Pursuits

There are over 400 varieties of mushrooms to be found in Bhutan. Served with rice Shamu Datshi is a dish that brings together Bhutan’s beloved cheese and mushrooms. In fact, it would be interesting to sign up for a guided mushroom foraging tour in the forest. Mushroom hunting is quite an art, and this eco-adventure will come loaded with all kinds of discoveries; tie it up with a personalized cooking class and see what fun you’ll have.

Many households would have a yak browsing in the yard; most parts of the animal are put to use in food…the milk for the ever-loved cheese, and meat for curries. Yak skin, for example, is fried and served as a snack. Meat eaters familiar with Bhutanese food opine that dried yak meat (yaksha) is the best kind of meat available.

Beef is commonly eaten too, and a popular dish is created with dried and preserved beef (shakam). Shakam Datshi consists of dried beef portioned into bite-sized morsels simmered in cheese and butter. Shakam Paa, another option is dried beef cooked with dried chillies and sometimes even slivers of radish.

Pork too has a place in the Bhutanese kitchen menu, and Phaksha Paa, a cook up of slices of pork that are stir-fried with whole red dry chillies, is a good option to try. Goep is a stir-fry of slices of tripe with dried chillies and green onions; sometimes, they throw in chopped veggies to make it more interesting.

Want to sample the local tipple? It’s ara and has quite a kick! It’s distilled from rice, barley, or wheat. To see how the authentic version is made, you could sign up for a tour and discover the secrets of the different processes of ara-making –fermented or distilled, from a local farmer. Traditionally many make the liquor at home – so no sweat!

While you are about it, you might want to also avail of an opportunity to visit an artisanal brewery in Bhutan. The Namgay Artisanal Brewery, for example, creates a great range of craft beers (bottled and on tap), now all the rage in town. It’s the first of its kind in Bhutan!

Feeling more adventurous when it comes to beverages?  Try Suja – the Tibetan-style butter tea. Slightly salty and buttery, it tastes like a warm cup of soup rather than tea. Perfect for the cold Bhutanese days and nights! Cash in on an opportunity to enjoy high tea at the Forests of the Kuensel Phodrang Park and learn how to make the best Suja. Suja is an important component of ceremonial services and religious rituals as well.  So you’ll also discover there are many cultural aspects to that simple cup of buttered tea.

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