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Cuisine of Bhutan ...

Bhutanese cuisine is simple yet peculiarly difficult to approach. It is Asian in character with a strong Tibetan influence.Like that of Tibet, Bhutanese cuisine is hardly vegetarian, using ox, pork, chicken, now beef and various other protein sources. The cooking techniques are mostly of low temperature. Traditional Asian-style dumplings and wheat noodles are highly favoured.

Bhutanese cuisine is redolent with hot chillies, with a level of hotness about that of Thailand; the Bhutanese just use more of them in many of their dishes. They also use a cheese "datschi" where the Thais, like the Chinese are classically unaware of cheeses at all. Perhaps because of living at such high altitudes, as Tibetans, their diet is rich in both proteins and fats. Nevertheless, rice is an important part of the diet; both white and red rice is often served with each meal. Dishes of chillies, cheese, and a wide variety of vegetables, yak, dried beef, mutton, poultry, and fish are the usual daily fare.

Soups and stews of meat, rice, ferns, lentils, dried vegetables, chillies, and cheese are favoured during winter. Yaks are raised in the highlands, and in the autumn, there is a generous supply of meat, butter, and cheese to be preserved (often dried in the sun) for use throughout the winter. What is also served almost at each meal, and as an anytime snack with rice is like chili con queso dish called 'emma datschi', of many strips of hot peppers in a mildly, but complexly spiced cheese sauce. This might easily be called the national dish of Bhutan. The closest one might come to this extraordinary dish are certain dishes of Mexico. The cheese and hot pepper combination is not found in many other cuisines. Fried rice with available leftovers of meat, chicken, or vegetables, is highly popular. Fruits and vegetables flourish. Apple orchards abound.

Highly prized masatke mushrooms are grown in Bhutan and imported around the world. Mushrooms are available fresh during August and September, and dried the remainder of the year.

Chilli, capsicum onum, is not only the basis of Bhutan curries, it seems to be an obsession. Huge baskets of chillies are for sale in the markets and along roadsides. They are often drying on rooftops and in courtyards. Meat is usually cooked into a curry with little seasoning other than the hottest chillies. The prevailing attitude seems to be, "If the curry does not make you sweat, why bother eating it?" Spices like cardamom, ginger, garlic, turmeric, and caraway are used sparingly. Rice is under widespread cultivation, and is served at every meal. White rice is popular in urban areas. Red rice, with its nutty flavor, grows well at high altitudes and is widely used in rural areas. Buckwheat is grown for noodles, and maize production is increasing.

Dairy products from cows or yaks are popular. Most of the milk is made into butter or cheese. Tibetan butter tea; made of yak butter, tea, and salt; is popular. Bhutanese tea or souze, local rice wine and beer are also favoured. Desi of white rice, butter, sugar, golden raisins, and saffron; and Zow, with the addition of oilseeds, are favourites of His Majesty the King, and everybody eats these dishes to observe special occasions.

The easiest way to taste and enjoy traditional food when travelling in Bhutan is to eat where the dishes have been prepared for foreign travellers. These cooks will temper the chillies so that the heat does not overwhelm the taste buds. Then, you will see that the dishes of fresh vegetables and familiar ingredients tend to be simple, elegant, and enjoyable.

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