Bhutan’s Food

Ema Datshi

The national dish of Bhutan is called Ema Datshi. This Bhutanese dish is similar to a stew, and is made up of chilies, cheese, and is typically very spicy. In the language of Dzongkha, ‘Datshi’ means cheese and ‘Ema’ means chillies. The chillies are cut lengthwise and the seeds and ribs are then removed. The chillies are then mixed with cheese, garlic, water and oil. The cheese is different from most cheeses found elsewhere in the world as it does not dissolve in water. Onions and tomatoes are also added sometimes. There are also other different popular versions of the dish, for example Shakam Datshi. Shakam Datshi is made with dried Bhutanese beef, and is simmered with cheese and butter. Khewa Datshi is another variation of the dish that uses thinly cut potatoes, tomatoes, and is cooked with cheese and butter. Shamu Datshi is prepared similarly to Khewa Datshi with the addition of mushrooms. All of the various forms of Datshi are eaten with generous portions of white, brown, or red rice.

Red Rice

Red Rice is known as the staple food of Bhutan. The majority of red rice is grown in the Paro Valley of Bhutan, which provides very rich soil from mineral-rich glacier water. The rice is medium-grain rice that cooks faster than other types of rice because it is only partially milled. The red color appears after being cooked as some of the bran is left on the rice. The rice is very rich in minerals and is wheat and gluten-free, making it a very nutritious dish that is known for its nutty/earthy taste all throughout Bhutan.


Phaksha Paa is a Bhutanese dish made with pork and red chilies. Paa is a curry with a meaty pork stew and gravy. The pork is sliced and stir-fried with dry red chilies, bok choy, and ginger. Radishes, spinach, and other mountain vegetables may also be added. Bok Choy is described as a white mustard cabbage with a peppery taste and a stalk similar to celery with dark leaves. Bok Choy is also used frequently in fresh salads. There are also numerous variations of Phakshaa Paa such as Shakam Paa, which is high in protein. The dish includes dried beef slices cook with dry chilies, onions, potatoes, and radishes. Sicaam Paa is another variation of the original dish that includes sun-dried pork belly that is fried with dry chilies. Yaksha Shakam is the last variation of the dish that used dried yak meat instead of pork.


Momo’s are another popular dish in Bhutan that is typically saved for special occasions. It is a Tibetan style dumpling that is stuffed with beef, pork, or cabbage. They appear very similar to Chinese steamed dumplings, but they are filled with much more elaborate ingredients like cheese.


Hoentay is an alternative for the popular momos that originate in the Haa Valley of Bhutan. They come from buckwheat and are either steamed or fried with a variety of stuffings such as; green leafy vegetables, cheese, and meat. They are sometimes served with Chilli sauce called ezay.


Suja is a common drink offered in Bhutan. It is a salted milk butter tea that is used in social environments and is especially comforting in cold weather. Fresh yak butter is used to make fermented yak butter, which is then boiled with tea leaves and water. It is known to be an acquired taste because of its saltiness, but it still remains a complimentary drink in Bhutan’s culture and other neighboring countries like Nepal and Tibet.


JashaMaroo is a like a spicy curry or stew that includes boneless diced chicken with local butter, garlic, tomatoes, ginger, coriander leaves, and spring onions. The dish is served with a large portion of chicken broth and the ginger is what’s known to make this dish stand out from others.

Jaju Soup

Jaju Soup is a traditional Bhutanese soup that is typically served as a side dish. It is made with green leafy vegetables, local spinach, and turnips. The broth is cooked with milk and butter, and cheese is sometimes added for additional taste.


JashaTshoem is a spicy stew made with beef, ginger, garlic, onions, chilli pepper and occasionally mushrooms.


Khur-le is a traditional wholesome Bhutanese breakfast that is especially popular in cold climates. The dish is a pancake made from barley, buckwheat, or wheat flour. It is usually served alongside ema, shakam datshi, or eggs with a variety of sauces.


Puta is a type of traditional Bhutanese noodles that are a heathier alternative to regular noodles because they are made from buckwheat. They are mainly served boiled but are sometimes stir-fried in oil. The flavor can be enhanced by adding different sauces and sautéed vegetables. As an alternative to rice puta serves as another staple food in Bhutan.


Another common side served with all of these traditional Bhutanese dishes is Jangbaling, which is homemade noodles cooked with Sichuan peppers and red chilis.


Khatem is a combination of bitter melon/gourd and is sliced up thinly then fried in butter and seasoning. It is a popular snack for all occasions.