Bhutanese cuisine

Bhutanese cuisine is dominated by red rice, buckwheat, and moreover maize. Buckwheat is eaten mainly in Bumthang, maize in the Eastern districts, and rice everywhere. It also includes chicken, yak meat, dried beef, pork and lamb. Soups and stews are made from meat, rice, ferns, lentils, and dried vegetables, spiced with chili peppers and cheese. Ema datshi is a spicy dish made out of green chili peppers in a cheesy sauce which is the national dish for its ubiquity and the pride that Bhutanese have for it.

Traditional Bhutanese eating habits are very simple. In general, food is usually eaten with hands while family members eat together sitting cross-legged on the wooden floor with food being served first to the head of the family. It is usually woman who serves the food and mostly, the mother in Bhutanese society. Before eating, it’s a ritual to offer short prayer and a small morsel is often placed on the floor as an offering made to the local spirits and deities. While in urban areas, people usually eat with cutlery seated at a regular dining table. The dishes are cooked in earthenware, but with the easy availability of modern goods, pots and pans have largely replaced their uses at greater extent today.

Bhutanese cuisine is characterized by its unique flavors, use of chili peppers, and emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. Here’s an overview of Bhutanese cuisine:

1. Key Ingredients and Flavors

  • Chili Peppers: A staple ingredient in Bhutanese cooking, chili peppers are used in almost every dish, ranging from mild to extremely spicy.
  • Rice: The staple food of Bhutan, rice accompanies almost every meal and is often red or white.
  • Dairy Products: Yak cheese, butter, and yogurt are common in Bhutanese cuisine, especially in the mountainous regions.
  • Vegetables: Seasonal vegetables such as spinach, potatoes, and radishes are widely used.
  • Meat: Pork, beef, chicken, and yak meat are popular protein sources.

2. Traditional Dishes

  • Ema Datshi: Bhutan’s national dish, made with chili peppers and a cheese sauce (datshi) often served with rice.
  • Dumplings (Momos): Steamed or fried dumplings filled with meat or vegetables, served with spicy dipping sauces.
  • Phaksha Paa: Pork cooked with spicy red chili sauce and radishes.
  • Jasha Maroo: Spicy chicken stew with tomatoes and onions.
  • Suja: Traditional Bhutanese butter tea, served hot and salty.

3. Food Culture and Customs

  • Eating Habits: Meals are typically served family-style, with dishes placed in the center for sharing.
  • Spices and Seasonings: Besides chili peppers, Bhutanese cuisine uses a variety of spices such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, and Sichuan pepper.
  • Cultural Significance: Food plays a central role in Bhutanese culture, often shared during festivals, religious ceremonies, and social gatherings.

4. Beverages

  • Ara: Traditional Bhutanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice or maize.
  • Butter Tea: Suja, a salty butter tea, is a common beverage enjoyed throughout Bhutan.

5. Dining Etiquette

  • Respectful Behavior: When dining with Bhutanese hosts, it is customary to accept second helpings and use utensils appropriately.
  • Cultural Sensitivities: Observing local customs, such as removing shoes before entering a Bhutanese home or monastery, shows respect.

6. Modern Influences and Adaptations

  • Tourism Impact: Bhutanese cuisine has seen adaptations to accommodate international tastes while maintaining its traditional flavors.
  • Restaurant Scene: In urban areas like Thimphu and Paro, there is a growing restaurant scene offering both traditional and fusion Bhutanese dishes.

Bhutanese cuisine offers a unique culinary experience rooted in tradition, local ingredients, and cultural practices. Exploring Bhutanese dishes, from spicy ema datshi to comforting momos and hearty stews, provides visitors with a taste of Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage and culinary diversity.


Need Assistance?

Need Help? Call us or drop a message. Our agents will be in touch shortly.
Call Us : +975-17351324
+91 – 7872254450
Email Us :