Bhutan Food and Drink

Bhutanese food is simple and rustic, based on the limited ingredients that can be grown in the challenging environment of the Himalayas. The core of Bhutanese cooking is rice – both white rice and red rice (eue chum), a nutty-flavoured variety grown for centuries in the Bhutanese hills – but many farmers also raise buckwheat and maize. Chilli arrived by way of India and China, and it adds punch to many Bhutanese dishes.

Chicken, eggs and dried yak meat are popular sources of protein, as is datshi, traditional unpasteurised cheese made from cows’ milk, which is melted into soups and stews. Tibetan staples such as momos – wheat-flour dumplings stuffed with pork, beef, vegetables or cheese – are commonplace, and many dishes feature apples, asparagus and wild mushrooms from the hills. Tibetan-style tea with salt and butter is sipped everywhere in Bhutan.

Specialities

Datshi: Cow's milk cheese, often served in a spicy stew with red chillies (ema datshi).
Tshoem: A spicy curry made with beef and mushrooms.
Eue chum: Bhutanese red rice, a nutty-flavoured variety unique to Bhutan.
Phaksha Paa: Pork cooked with fiery red chillies.
Sha Kam: Dried beef, often served in a spicy stew with red chillies, radishes and tomato.
Hoentoe: Buckwheat dumplings from Haa, stuffed with turnip leaves, chilli and cheese.
Jasha Maru: Spicy minced chicken with garlic, ginger, tomatoes and green chilli.
Goep: Tripe, often stewed with chilli.
Ara: A rough spirit distilled from fermented rice.
Chang: Local beer, cereal-based and generally home-brewed.

Things to know

Meals are often buffet-style and mostly vegetarian. Meat and fish are now imported from nearby India, and Nepali Hindus living in Bhutan are licensed to slaughter animals. Usual precautions apply.

Tipping

Not widely practised by locals. Your guides will expect a tip at the end of your trip and US$5-10 per person per day is appropriate.

Drinking age

18.

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