Say exotic, think Bhutan…the land of the thunder dragon…an epithet well earned…a mystical place of mountains, prayer flags, cultural codes of conduct, a flagship economics based on gross national happiness…where the lamas (holy men) rule the land…and democracy worships the monarchs…where houses are painted with phalluses to bring good luck…carbon footprints are kept at the lowest…sixty percent land still remains covered with trees…and food is by default organic…Bhutan is an “A” on anyone’s bucket list and must be kicked at least once in a lifetime to spend some evenings filled with mystical lore, some alcoholic delights and the ubiquitous “ema datshe”. – the national dish of the country!
A simple but spicy meal of Bhutan means a wooden bowl of unpolished red rice (the rice is actually a purplish red in colour), ema datshe – a chilly and cheese concoction cooked with some home made butter – ezay – a spicy side salad of finely chopped onions, tomatoes, chillies, ginger mixed with a dash of mustard oil and some crushed schezwan pepper and some heart warming Ara- the rice beer of Bhutan!
Red Rice – Organic
Red rice – 1 cup
Olive oil – 1 tablespoon
Water – 2 cups
Rinse red rice in water.Heat oil in a pot, add rice and stir for 2 minutes.Add water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover pot. Cook for 45 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
Ema Datshe – Cheese and Chilly
- Bhutanese chilli peppers – 6 (halved and de seeded)
- Red onion – 1 sliced
- Tomato – 1 sliced
- Garlic – 3 cloves crushed
- Unsalted butter – 1 tblsp
- Local cheese (churpee) – crumbled to taste
- Processed Cheese – grated to taste
- Salt to taste
- 1 cup water (to cook the chillies)
Heat a pan and add butter. Add the sliced onion, tomato and chillies. Give them a quick toss and the water. Season them with salt. Cover and cook until the peppers become tender.
Turn off the flame and add the cheese and let it melt in the residual heat.
Ezay – Spicy Salad
- Tomatoes – 100 gms chopped, seeds removed
- Red onions – 50 gms chopped
- Red chillies – 50 gms, fried in oil, drained well on kitchen towels, chopped finely (substitute with fresh green chillies or fresh red chillies or a combination)
- Coriander – 10 gms chopped
- Local Cheese (Churpee) – 50 gms, crumbled
- Vegetable oil – 5 gms
- Salt – to taste
- Sichuan peppercorns – a pinch
Mix everything in a bowl. Use a food processor for a finer blend. Enjoy it with salads, soups or with plain rice!
All evenings in Bhutan can be termed as the “Ema Datshe” evenings where people end up slurping the chilli and cheese curry with organic red rice all the while washing it down with a local alcoholic delight – the Ara or the local rice beer served either hot and clear, cold and swimming with butter and poached egg or maybe the chunky style with rice and scrambled egg….
P. S : In Buddhism the subject of alcohol is twisted, they say that depending on the “Yana” or the method of Buddhism you follow, alcohol maybe be completely prohibited, partially allowed or used as a way of life!