Introduction to Bhutanese Cuisine – Spicy and Flavorful

27 August, 2011

You have read about how I raved about the Bhutanese meal served onboard Druk Air. Now let me provide you with a quick introduction to Bhutanese Cuisine on land – just remember one fact: Bhutanese LOVE Chilies! There are dishes where chilies are the main ingredients and dishes where chilies are the only ingredients! If you don’t like chilies, learn this phrase: “nga zhego ema dacikha miga” which means “I don’t like food with chilies”.

Actually if you really don’t like chili, you don’t really have to learn to pronounce the above phrase (who knows – you might even end up pronouncing it to sound as if you love chilies! :-)). The fact that you are on an all-inclusive travel package means that the food you will be having in hotels or restaurants will most likely be toned-down Bhutanese fare which is mixed with continental Indian and Chinese dishes, so as to suit the palate of tourists. If you have any special dietary requirements, your guide will most likely be there to assist you.

Bhutanese meals are characterised by the hot chilli pepper and cheese; put them together and you have the national favourite – Aema Datsi (literally chilli and cheese). This main dish has spun into numerous variations: Kewa Datsi (potato and cheese), Shamu Datsi (mushroom and cheese). These would be standard fare in most Bhutanese restaurants, but do tell them how hot, that is how much chilli you can take in your meal.

Bhutanese Cuisine Food Spicy Unique Yummy Good Restaurant Tour Bhutan

There are 2 things you need not worry about when travelling in Bhutan (even more so if you are used to Singapore food) – One, You will Never get Hungry and Two, Local food taste pretty much like back home e.g. Chinese food (except with a bit more cheese and chili).

Lunch will typically be in restaurants (depending on your journey around Bhutan) and 5-6 dishes will be served – chicken, vegetables, pasta cooked with cheese, potatoes, rice and of course chili cheese! There will be enough to go around during each meal (often too much). As you can see in the picture below, it is pretty much what we typically eat in Singapore – no surprises (except perhaps for the chili cheese which is hot and tastes *erm… well… cheesy!*). Bottled water will also be served (included in the tour package). For juices, beer and soft drinks, check with your tour guide if its included in the package.

Bhutanese Cuisine Food Spicy Unique Yummy Good Restaurant Tour Bhutan

Dinner is typically served in the hotel restaurants where you will most likely get the same Bhutanese fare – similar to your lunch. Very few hotel restaurants serve ala carte meals so they will usually wait for the group to get together before they serve the “buffet” style meals i.e. 5-6 dishes served in big bowls with a serving spoon each. Most of the food taste good because they are locally produced organically. However, do note that fish is imported (since Bhutan is a landlocked country) from neighbouring countries so dishes with fish are not as tasty as what you might get back home.

Breakfast is usually served ala carte with choices of western dishes as well as local noodle dishes. Omelettes, scrambled eggs are usually available upon request.

The Butter Tea is also one of the unique teas served in Bhutanese restaurants. It tastes *erm… well… buttery!* The butter taste is very strong and overpowers the tea leaf smell and at times, it feels like drinking butter but it tastes great!

Bhutanese Cuisine Food Spicy Unique Yummy Good Restaurant Tour Bhutan

Besides enjoying Bhutanese cuisine and its spiciness, sometimes dining in restaurants outside come with another perks – excellent views of the surroundings that makes all the whole dining experience even more enjoyable! For example, the Chimi Lhakhang Cafeteria (see picture on the left) has ceiling to floor windows which offers guests with a great view of the Chimi Lhakhang temple and its surrounding rice padi fields while having lunch. The Taktshang Cafeteria offers great views of the Taktshang Goemba – Tiger’s Nest Monastery while you are resting with tea and biscuits before you attempt Stage 2 – a steep climb up to the monastery.

Tiger Temple Taktshang Chimmi Lahkang Cafe Restaurant Bhutan with a View Bhutanese Cuisine

Getting to Bhutan

To book a trip, contact Bhutan-travel specialist Druk Asia (; +65 6 338 9909; email

Zhiqiang & Tingyi

Comments (13)

  • Debbie BreadnerReply

    6 September, 2011 at 1:18 am

    Hello Zhiqiang & Tingyi
    I am doing some research for our next trip and found your post. You have answered many of the questions and myths about Bhutan. My husband and I operate a Bed & Breakfast in Canada called Villa Lucera.
    We travelled last year to India & Sri Lanka and prior to that Thailand and Myanmar.
    Hopefully next trip Vietnam, Loas, Singapore and Bali. I will check your other posts as they may offer insight into these countries.
    I found that your articles were very well written. I also appreciated the photos of the hotels and food. I am hungry now for some spicy food. I am a retired chef and enjoy interesting food experiences.
    Thanks for the information.


    • TingyiReply

      7 September, 2011 at 11:07 pm

      Hi Debbie,

      Thanks! =) Do drop by our blog for more updates on Bhutan and give us your comment/feedback! =)


  • Los Angeles flyerReply

    7 September, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Haha, the whole cuisine sounds like eating chili with a bot of chili on top. 🙂 Just kidding, the dishes on the pictures look delicious, but I have not seen too much meat mentioned. Do Bhutanese people eat mostly vegetables and cheese? What kind of meat do they prefer – if any?

  • Rickie LuvertReply

    22 September, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    I don’t ordinarily comment but I gotta say regards for that post on this one.

  • unmeteredpsReply

    29 October, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Lovely just what I was searching for.Thanks to the author for taking his time on this one.

  • MdsReply

    6 November, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.

  • kidsaleReply

    8 November, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    I really enjoy this post 100%, I do we do hope you could blog much more concerning this.

  • shorReply

    19 November, 2011 at 3:21 am

    Subscribed to your blog, thanks

  • Land of the Thunder Dragon Bhutan Trip Summary | Singapore Travel BlogReply

    28 November, 2011 at 10:57 am

    […] An Introduction to Bhutanese Cuisine […]

  • Xavier SwinfordReply

    3 April, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Awesome article post.Thanks Again. Will read on…


    15 April, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    “nga zhego ema dacikha miga”

  • Dhyan ChandReply

    19 September, 2012 at 6:05 am

    I am an Interior designer have chosen Bhutanese traditional Restaurant for my project work. I will visit Bhutan soon for my case studies and all related works. But i need some important information prior to that. Like
    1. Type of dining habits (Traditional and Buddhist)
    2. Furniture used for Dining and serving
    3. Material used for making furniture
    4. House hold/Decorative Items used in Dining area
    5. If ground sitting : Mat (Type and material)/ Any other
    6. Kitchen type
    7. Mostly used material for Interiors
    8. Type of Lighting/Environment preferred
    9. Arts and Craft
    10. Dining area sitting habits
    11. And any other important information you would like to share related to Bhutan and Buddhism which can helpful for my Project.

    Someone Please help me to get information about these above points. Unless until I get sufficient information, I can’t start my Project for my Final year Studies.. Please please please Help me…. I need these as soon as possible.

    Note: Information related to Bhutan Tradition and Culture only. (Don’t need information of any Contemporary and western traditional item Used)….

    Thnk you very much for Co-operation and for Information in advance.

    With Warm Regards…. Dhyan Chand

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