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30th September 2023

11 Best Dishes in Bhutan That You Definitely Must Try (2023)

Are you eager to embark on an extraordinary culinary journey through the enchanting kingdom of Bhutan? If so, you’re in for a treat! In this blog post, we’re here to share with you the best dishes in Bhutan that will take you on a mouthwatering adventure.

With our wealth of experience in leading group trips to Bhutan and our recent visit to this remarkable country, we’ve had the privilege of immersing ourselves in the local culture and discovering the hidden gems of Bhutanese food.

From savoring the vibrant flavors of Gondomaru and Ema Datshi to discovering the cultural significance of the Betel Nut and indulging in traditional Bhutanese dishes like Shakam Paa and Jasha Maru, we’ve got your taste buds covered!

So, get ready to tantalize your senses, as we unveil the culinary wonders of Bhutan and guide you to the best places to indulge in authentic Bhutanese cuisine. Your taste buds are in for an unforgettable adventure!

Best Dishes in Bhutan

1. Gondomaru

Gondomaru

Indulge in the heart of Bhutanese cuisine with Gondomaru, a unique and aromatic red rice variety that forms the cornerstone of many traditional dishes.

Grown in the fertile valleys of Bhutan, this nutty-flavored rice boasts a striking red hue and a distinct texture that adds depth and character to every meal.

  • Where to Eat: Found throughout Bhutan, particularly in the Paro and Punakha districts.
  • Price: Approximately 200 INR per kg.

2. Kule / Kepthang

Kule / Kepthang

Savor the taste of tradition with Kule or Kepthang, the beloved bread of Bhutan. Crafted from wheat or buckwheat flour and cooked on a griddle, this delightful bread offers a soft and chewy texture that perfectly complements the robust flavors of Bhutanese curries.

  • Where to Eat: Widely available in local markets and bakeries across Bhutan.
  • Price: Around 20 INR per piece.

3. The Betel Nut (Doma)

The Betel Nut

Discover the significance of the Betel Nut, affectionately known as Doma, in Bhutanese culture. Often enjoyed after meals, this stimulant holds deep cultural roots and plays a pivotal role in social customs.

Experience the ritualistic chewing of the Betel Nut and gain insights into the traditions that have shaped Bhutanese society.

  • Where to Eat: Doma can be found in local markets and shops across Bhutan.
  • Price: Varies, but approximately 50 INR per pack.

Must-Try Bhutanese Dishes

4. Ema Datshi

Ema Datshi

Prepare your taste buds for a culinary masterpiece with Ema Datshi, Bhutan’s iconic dish. This fusion of locally sourced cheese and fiery chili peppers creates a harmonious symphony of flavors that ignites the senses.

Indulge in the perfect balance of creamy richness and spicy heat that defines Bhutanese cuisine.

  • Where to Eat: Available in most restaurants and eateries across Bhutan.
  • Price: Approximately 300-400 INR per plate.

5. Shakam Paa

Shakam Paa

Embark on a savory adventure with Shakam Paa, a quintessential Bhutanese dish featuring dried beef infused with aromatic spices. The tender beef, marinated and sun-dried to perfection, is cooked to create a burst of umami flavors that will leave you craving more.

Brace yourself for a culinary experience that showcases the depth and complexity of Bhutanese cuisine.

  • Where to Eat: Commonly found in local eateries and traditional restaurants.
  • Price: Around 400-500 INR per plate.

6. Jasha Maru

Jasha Maru

Delight in the heartwarming flavors of Jasha Maru, a traditional Bhutanese chicken stew. Simmered with an array of aromatic spices, this soul-soothing dish captures the essence of Bhutanese comfort food.

Immerse yourself in the rich flavors and tender textures that make Jasha Maru a beloved culinary treasure.

  • Where to Eat: Offered in various restaurants and homestays across Bhutan.
  • Price: Approximately 300-400 INR per plate.

7. Phaksha Paa

Phaksha Paa

Experience the robust flavors of Phaksha Paa, a tantalizing pork dish cooked with radishes and spices.

The succulent pork slow-cooked to perfection, blends harmoniously with the earthy sweetness of radishes, resulting in a symphony of flavors that showcases the artistry of Bhutanese culinary techniques.

  • Where to Eat: Found in local eateries and restaurants across Bhutan.
  • Price: Around 400-500 INR per plate.

8. Zow Shungo

Zow Shungo

Discover the vibrant world of Zow Shungo, a delightful mixed vegetable dish that celebrates Bhutan’s bountiful harvests. Featuring an array of seasonal vegetables, such as spinach, turnips, and radishes, this flavorful medley bursts with colors and textures.

With a harmonious blend of spices and traditional cooking methods, Zow Shungo offers a wholesome and nourishing experience for both vegetarians and veggie enthusiasts.

  • Where to Eat: Available in restaurants and eateries serving Bhutanese cuisine.
  • Price: Approximately 300-400 INR per plate.

Traditional Beverages a Must-Try Bhutanese Dishes

9. Suja

Suja Tea

Quench your thirst with a cup of Suja, the authentic butter tea of Bhutan. This unique beverage combines the richness of butter with the subtle bitterness of tea, resulting in a comforting and invigorating drink.

Served hot, Suja is a perfect companion for chilly mountain evenings, offering a delightful balance of flavors and a glimpse into Bhutanese tea-drinking traditions.

  • Where to Eat: Available in teahouses and local establishments across Bhutan.
  • Price: Around 50-100 INR per cup.

10. Goen Hogey

Goen Hogey

Refresh your senses with a sip of Goen Hogey, a homemade fruit juice made from locally sourced fruits. From tangy oranges to juicy apples, Bhutan offers an abundance of fresh fruits that are transformed into delicious and natural juices.

Savor the sweetness of these refreshing concoctions, which provide a burst of natural flavors and a revitalizing experience.

  • Where to Eat: Found in local markets and roadside stalls.
  • Price: Varies depending on the fruit, usually between 50-100 INR per glass.

11. Khabzey

Khabzey

Immerse yourself in the Bhutanese drinking culture with a taste of Khabzey, the traditional alcoholic beverage of Bhutan. Brewed from fermented rice or wheat, Khabzey holds a significant place in Bhutanese festivities and celebrations.

Its distinct flavor and smooth texture make it a favorite choice for locals and visitors alike, providing a glimpse into the country’s rich cultural heritage.

  • Where to Eat: Available in local bars and traditional festivals.
  • Price: Approximately 200-300 INR per bottle.

Best Places to Indulge in Bhutanese Cuisine

When it comes to indulging in Bhutanese cuisine, there are a few standout places that truly capture the essence of this flavorful cuisine. Thimphu, the capital city, offers a vibrant culinary scene with a range of local eateries and restaurants serving up traditional Bhutanese dishes.

Paro, known for its picturesque landscapes, also boasts charming dining establishments where you can savor authentic Bhutanese flavors.

Top Restaurants and Eateries in Bhutan

  1. Babesa Village Restaurant (Thimphu)
    • Location: Babesa, Thimphu, Bhutan
    • Famous Dishes: Ema Datshi, Shakam Paa, Jasha Maru
    • Prices (INR): Main dishes range from 300-500 INR
  1. Sonam Trophel Restaurant (Thimphu)
    • Location: Norzin Lam, Thimphu, Bhutan
    • Famous Dishes: Gondomaru, Phaksha Paa, Kewa Datshi
    • Prices (INR): Main dishes range from 300-500 INR
  2. Tashi Tagay Restaurant (Paro)
    • Location: Olakha, Paro, Bhutan
    • Famous Dishes: Shakam Datshi, Jasha Tshoem, Goen Hogey
    • Prices (INR): Main dishes range from 300-500 INR
  3. Metta Vegetarian Restaurant (Thimphu)
    • Location: Chang Lam, Thimphu, Bhutan
    • Famous Dishes: Zow Shungo, Kewa Datshi (vegetarian version), Suja (butter tea)
    • Prices (INR): Main dishes range from 200-400 INR
  4. Rene Restaurant (Thimphu)
    • Location: Norzin Lam, Thimphu, Bhutan
    • Famous Dishes: Shakam Paa, Ema Datshi, Dumplings
    • Prices (INR): Main dishes range from 300-500 INR

Conclusion – Best Dishes in Bhutan

In conclusion, Bhutan offers a culinary experience that is both tantalizing and culturally enriching. From the fiery delights of Ema Datshi and Shakam Paa to the comforting flavors of Jasha Maru and Phaksha Paa, every bite tells a story of Bhutan’s vibrant food culture.

The authentic butter tea, Suja, and refreshing Goen Hogey add a delightful twist, while the traditional beverage Khabzey offers a taste of Bhutanese festivities.

As you explore the best places to indulge in Bhutanese cuisines, such as Thimphu, Paro, and Punakha, you’ll be captivated by the blend of flavors and the warm hospitality that awaits you.

Embark on this culinary journey and let your taste buds be your guide in discovering the gastronomic wonders of the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

FAQs – Best Dishes in Bhutan

What are the must-try dishes in Bhutan?

When it comes to must-try dishes in Bhutan, there are a few that you simply can’t miss. Start with Gondomaru, a flavorsome mix of mushrooms and cheese that will leave you craving for more. For a fiery experience, indulge in Ema Datshi, Bhutan’s iconic chili and cheese dish. And don’t forget to savor the succulent Shakam Paa, a dried beef delight that packs a punch of flavors. These dishes showcase the essence of Bhutanese cuisine and are sure to leave a lasting impression.

Where can I find the best Bhutanese food?

To get a true taste of Bhutanese cuisine, head to local eateries and restaurants across Bhutan. In Thimphu, the country’s capital, you’ll find a variety of dining options offering authentic Bhutanese dishes. Paro, with its stunning natural beauty, also boasts delightful culinary scenes. Punakha, the ancient capital, is another food lover’s paradise. From traditional farmhouses-turned-restaurants to cozy cafes, these places offer the perfect ambiance to indulge in the best Bhutanese food while enjoying the local vibes.

What is the price range for Bhutanese dishes?

The price range for Bhutanese dishes varies depending on the establishment and location. On average, you can expect to spend around 300-500 INR per plate for most dishes. However, street food and local eateries may offer more affordable options, ranging from 100-300 INR. Upscale restaurants and dining establishments in popular tourist areas might have slightly higher prices. It’s always a good idea to check the menu or ask the locals for recommendations that fit your budget while ensuring a delectable dining experience.

Are there vegetarian options in Bhutanese cuisine?

Absolutely! Bhutanese cuisine offers a wide range of vegetarian options that are both delicious and satisfying. Dishes like Zow Shungo, a mixed vegetable medley, and Kewa Datshi, a potato and cheese delicacy, are popular choices for vegetarians. Additionally, many restaurants and eateries in Bhutan offer vegetarian versions of their signature dishes, such as Ema Datshi and Shakam Paa, using alternatives like tofu or paneer. With the emphasis on fresh, seasonal produce, Bhutanese cuisine has plenty to offer for vegetarian food enthusiasts.

What is the significance of butter tea (Suja) in Bhutan?

Butter tea, known as Suja in Bhutan, holds great cultural significance in the country. It is a traditional beverage that has been enjoyed for centuries. Suja is made by combining black tea leaves with yak butter and salt, creating a rich and savory concoction. It is not only a refreshing drink but also serves as a source of warmth in the chilly mountainous regions of Bhutan. The unique flavors of Suja and the ritual of preparing and serving it offer a glimpse into the traditions and way of life in Bhutan.

Where can I find traditional Bhutanese beverages like Khabzey?

To taste traditional Bhutanese beverages like Khabzey, you can visit local bars and traditional festivals. Khabzey is a popular alcoholic beverage in Bhutan, brewed from fermented rice or wheat. It is often enjoyed during festive celebrations, cultural events, or gatherings with friends and family. Local bars in major cities like Thimphu and Paro offer opportunities to experience the unique flavors of Khabzey. Attending traditional festivals, such as Tshechus, provides a chance to immerse yourself in Bhutanese culture while enjoying the traditional beverages.

Can I find Bhutanese food outside of Bhutan?

While Bhutanese cuisine may not be as widely available as other international cuisines, you can find Bhutanese food in certain parts of the world. In countries with a sizable Bhutanese community, such as India and Nepal, you may come across Bhutanese restaurants or eateries that offer authentic Bhutanese dishes. Additionally, some restaurants and food festivals around the world occasionally feature Bhutanese cuisine as a part of their menu or culinary events. Exploring these options can give you a taste of Bhutanese flavors even outside the country’s borders.

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