Bhutanese culture today stands up to be one of the most unique cultures in the world. Talking of its distinctiveness, especially the well-bred Bhutanese food culture has always been an auxiliary force.
Almost all Bhutanese meals consist of boiled (or steamed) rice along with one or more curries. Rice can be either white polished rice called Ja Chum, which usually is imported from India, or locally grown red rice called Eue Chum. Three meals a day is typical and it is not uncommon for these three meals to all consist of rice and curry. Suja (butter tea) is also an integral part of the meals. Locally prepared alcohols like Ara and Singchang, distilled from rice, maize, wheat or barley depending on which crop is grown in that place, is generally served during /after dinner.
However, these local alcohols are redundant in villages while for the people dwelling in urban place the imported ones are more soothing. In Bumthang however, the staple food of rice is often substituted by buckwheat pancakes (Khuli/ Kepthang) and noodles (Puta) although consumption of rice is subsequently increasing because of its easy access. Buckwheat foods almost sound quaint having them often but people do heed them for their delicious taste.
Bhutanese dishes are known for its simplicity and taste. They are easy in preparing and yet delicious. One of the distinguishing traits of Bhutanese dishes is the ubiquitous chilli. Chillies too have varieties such as fresh green chilli, dried red chilli and chilli powder. Among all the dishes, the hot chilli pepper and cheese, ‘Aema Datshi’, has always taken its toll in defining Bhutan’s sole culture to a new perch. It is often considered to be the national dish of Bhutan. Aema Datshi has propelled many other variations such as kewa datsi (stewed potato, chilli and cheese), and Shamu Datsi (stewed mushroom, chilli and cheese).
Mealtime often means loosening oneself up, a way or a perfect time to socialize with other family member amidst their busy schedule. Family members sit with their knees folded, in an arrangement that resembles more or less a circle. The mother/wife usually sitting in the middle takes the initiative in serving the rest. Maintaining a sturdy sense of dinning etiquette forms an essential part in Bhutanese culture.
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Jigme Namgyel, research intern