Saturday, 23 April 2016

A Vegetarian In Bhutan

Vegetarians have reservations when it comes to travelling abroad. But being a Vegetarian shouldn’t stop you from living your travel dreams. No doubt it gets a bit difficult in some countries but it’s never impossible to find food that has no meat, no fish and no egg.

Bhutan was a pleasant surprise for me, this country’s local food has a plethora of vegetarian options. While it isn’t difficult to find an Indian restaurant in Bhutan, I’d suggest one should rather try their local cuisine.

Presenting you, the TEN Food Items every Vegetarian must relish when in Bhutan:

1.     Po Cha or Suja

Suja is butter tea, which is prepared by boiling tea leaves in water and yak or cow butter is then churned into the black tea.
Butter makes the consistency thick and gives it a soup like taste.

In a Bhutanese household, Suja is served with puffed rice or millets.


2.     Jaju 

Jaju is dried Algae(river weed) Soup. It tastes and looks like butter milk.


3.     Eue Chum or Red Rice 

Red Rice is a variant of brown rice but has a nutty taste. It’s a semi-milled rice. Hence, it takes lesser time to cook than the unmilled brown rice. After cooking process, it becomes soft and a little sticky. This rice is savored with curries like Ema Datshi.

Red Rice

4.     Ema Datshi

Ema Datshi is the signature dish of Bhutan.There is a popular saying that if you have been to Bhutan and not tasted Ema Datshi then you have not experienced Bhutan at all.

In Dzongkha (local language of Bhutan), ‘Ema’ means Chilli and ‘Datshi’ means Cheese.  As the name suggests, it is a dish prepared with Chilli and Cheese. This makes it quite hot and spicy. 

Surprisingly, in Bhutan, Chilies are not just used as a seasoning but as vegetables.

Red Rice, Ema Datshi, Kewa Datshi and Suja

5.     Kewa Datshi

In Dzongkha (the local language of Bhutan), ‘Kewa’ means Potato and ‘Datshi’ means Cheese. Kewa Datshi is a preparation made with potato, cheese and chilli.
However, unlike Ema Datshi, Kewa Datshi is less spicy.

6.     Ezze 

Ezze is a hot sauce made up of roasted and minced red chilies, onion and tomatoes.


7.     Fried Turnip Leaves 

Turnip is a root vegetable quite commonly used in Bhutanese cooking. This crispy fried version of turnip leaves is one of my favorite Bhutanese dish.

Fried Turnip Leaves

8.  Butter cheese curry

This is basically a curry prepared out of cheese, which is eaten with sticky rice.

Butter Cheese Curry

     9.     Khuli

Khuli is the local name for Buckwheat Pancakes. Buckwheat is grown in those parts of Bhutan where rice can’t be grown.


10.  Doma 

This list would have been incomplete without the mention of Doma. It is not really a dish but a food item specific to Bhutan.

Doma is similar to the Paan we have in India, except that your mouth stinks after having it.

Doma is an areca nut (commonly referred to as betel nut) wrapped in a betel leaf having a dash of lime. It instantly produces a lot of warmth in the body.
Most Bhutanese people have stained teeth, which is a result of continuous chewing of Doma.

Who says Vegetarian food isn’t interesting? I am sure you started to drool after reading this post.  :P

PS: The above list is compiled taking references from my recent trip to Bhutan with Ease India Travel and Dragon Villa Tours. You can get information on their next trip to Bhutan by visiting their website -


  1. What an awesome compilation! Thanks for this :) a great reference for all vegetarians!

  2. Interesting vegetarian dishes.

  3. Nice one, as a vegetarian I will look forward to tasting local cuisine when in Bhutan :)

  4. No Indian or close to Indian vegetarian dishes in Bhutan? None of them mentioned in your list seems known to me :D But good to see something new. How was your trip? Hope you enjoyed it, Neha?

    Talk to me once more - The Solitary Writer

    1. Ya they are very different from our Indian Cuisines.

  5. Except two of these I haven't tasted any other. :(
    Great presentation.

  6. Interesting!
    Being veg or non-veg is a non issue. एन्जॉय.

  7. Interesting! I agree earlier it was a big issue that veggies used to face outside India,but it is heartening to see that now we have got delicious options everywhere! Thanks for great pics :)

  8. Awesome post Neha! So many cuisines in the world and so many things we haven't tasted yet. Waiting for more Bhutan posts from you. :)

  9. Got to know so many things about Bhutan through this post. Thanks.