Find Out Why Ema Datshi is Beloved in Bhutanese Cuisine

When thinking about great food dishes, Ema Datshi and Bhutanese cuisine don’t really roll off the tongue. But this chili cheese recipe is full of surprises.

There isn’t a lot known about Bhutanese cuisine. After all, Bhutan has only just opened its doors to the world in the last few decades.

Find Out Why Ema Datshi is Revered in Bhutanese Cuisine www.compassandfork.com
Ema datshi and organic red rice

So, if you enjoy discovering new food options, this chili cheese recipe might just be for you. Ema Datshi, also known as datsi, is beloved in Bhutan. It’s a star of Bhutanese cuisine. The Bhutanese eat ema datshi every day. Consequently, it is the national dish of Bhutan.

Chilies are the main ingredient of this dish. But in 2016, there was a severe shortage of chilies. So Bhutan suffered withdrawal pains. Read on to understand how Bhutan’s commitment to the environment caused this chili shortage. It does have a good ending though.

The Importance of Ema Datshi in Bhutanese Cuisine

Find Out Why Ema Datshi is Revered in Bhutanese Cuisine www.compassandfork.com
Culture of Bhutan – stupas and prayer lags

Bhutan is a very mountainous country and is unable to produce all the chilies it needs. The Bhutanese hunger for Ema Datshi is that great. Therefore to satisfy demand, Bhutan imports chilies from neighboring India.

True to its commitment to organic food principles, the Bhutanese government tests these chilies for pesticide residue. Because of unsatisfactory results, Bhutan consequently banned Indian chilies in July, 2016.

Suddenly there were not enough chilies to go around and many Bhutanese people could no longer make Datsi. For the Bhutanese, this was devastating. It’s the equivalent, maybe, of bread not being available where you live.

Luckily the “crisis” ended when the Kingdom of Bhutan identified a healthier source of chilies from Kolkata, India.

The Bhutanese Government was under immense pressure during the ban period. However, they decided a long term solution was more important for the health and well being of its citizens.

Bhutan’s Commitment to the World means Bhutanese Food is Organic

The story above may not sound that important to us. However, it sums up the commitment to Gross National Happiness in Bhutan. The Bhutanese respect all life (humans, fauna, flora). They understand the need to respect the earth.

The Kingdom of Bhutan uses no chemicals in agriculture. As well, there is a blanket ban on genetically modified food throughout Bhutan. There is a question on the Bhutanese Customs form confirming you are not bringing any GMO food into the country! Bhutanese cuisine is therefore organic, tasty and healthy.

Find Out Why Ema Datshi is Revered in Bhutanese Cuisine www.compassandfork.com
Bhutanese food is organic and grows in pristine conditions

The Bhutanese figure their citizens will be happier as a result. Although only a minnow in world affairs, they are active in world environmental efforts.

Watch this short video clip taken at the Memorial Chorten in Thimpu:

Note worshipers walking in a clockwise direction and praying. (The audio you hear is the monk saying the blessing.)  Those prayers are for liberating all sentient beings from suffering. Yes, to all human beings and animal life. The Bhutanese commitment to happiness extends beyond their borders to you. And you didn’t even know!

This is part of the reason Bhutanese cuisine is primarily, but not exclusively, vegetarian. So, enjoy some Bhutanese cuisine by making datsi.

Ema Datshi: A Cheese Chili Recipe and Star of Bhutanese Cuisine

Find Out Why Ema Datshi is Revered in Bhutanese Cuisine www.compassandfork.com
Bhutanese cuisine is full of chilies and white cheese

This cheese chili recipe really is a simple dish to make in quick time. Ema Datshi features in every meal in Bhutan.

In Bhutan there are many variations of the dish. You can  simply  replace the chilies with potatoes (Kewa Datshi) or mushrooms (Shamu Datshi).

The Bhutanese tend to enjoy their Ema Datshi spicy! Using long, green peppers, called Anaheim peppers in the United States, tones it down. And I have used long, red chilies (milder than green chilies) but did not remove the seeds. If you want no heat at all then de-seed the red chilies. If you want it spicier, replace the Anaheim peppers with green chilies.

As for cheese, I use a small amount of feta cheese. As it can be salty, I also use a good melting cheese, such as gruyere, emmanthaler or comte.

For a truly Bhutanese meal, enjoy your Ema Datshi with Red Rice. And fancy a warm and simple fruit cocktail to accompany that? Using everyday ingredients, enjoy a Dragon Warmer for a real Bhutanese experience.

While enjoying your meal just think about the Bhutanese pushing out their love to you. Just, maybe, you can feel it.

When thinking about great food dishes, Ema Datshi and Bhutanese cuisine don’t really roll off the tongue. But this chili cheese recipe is full of surprises. www.compassandfork.com

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Find Out Why Ema Datshi is Revered in Bhutanese Cuisine www.compassandfork.com
Ema Datshi (Cheese Chili)
Print Recipe
Print Recipe
Easy to make from every day ingredients.
Servings Prep Time Cook Time
2people 10minutes 15minutes
Servings Prep Time
2people 10minutes
Cook Time
15minutes
Ingredients
Servings: people
Units:
Ingredients
Servings: people
Units:
Instructions
  1. In a wok or large pan over a moderate heat, add the pepper, chili, onion, tomatoes, garlic and water. Stir to combine, cover and bring to the boil.
  2. When boiling, turn down the heat to achieve a simmer. Add the feta and butter, stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the gruyere cheese and stir well to combine. When the cheese has fully melted, stir again to fully incorporate.
  3. Place the ema datshi into a serving bowl. Serve with red rice.Find Out Why Ema Datshi is Revered in Bhutanese Cuisine www.compassandfork.com
Recipe Notes

Tashi Delek.

We traveled as guests of Yangphel Adventure Travel. As always, all opinions are our own.

8 Responses

  1. Kortney
    | Reply

    That was an extremely interesting article. I would love to visit a country that places an emphasis on eating organically. What is the cheese that they would be using in Bhutan?

    • Editor
      | Reply

      I think it is the most interesting country I have visited. I love their attitude and sense of optimism. The cheese is made by local farmers and is the local cheese featured in the picture from the market. It melts well. I can’t really think of anything equivalent in the US except maybe a queso freso which melts well.

  2. Kristen R.
    | Reply

    I really love this article – My background is actually in Himalayan Studies and it’s always a wonderful surprise when I find recipes and articles exploring that part of the world. I can’t wait to give the recipe a try! Tashi Delek!

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Kristen, I am so please to hear that. We have only visited Bhutan in the Himalayas and we were so impressed with the whole country. Love the people, scenery, food. And the festivals are maybe the best cultural event I have ever seen as a traveler. Thanks for your comment, you have really made my day. Tashi Delek.

  3. Chava Mazal
    | Reply

    This is such a wonderful article. I have to confess complete ignorance about Bhutanese culture but you’ve inspired me to go out and read more about it. What a remarkable story.

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Thank you so much for that. We really appreciated the people of Bhutan. They have some principles which they hold to.

  4. Christine
    | Reply

    How amazing to have a culture that respects their food and environment so much. The rest of us could learn a thing or two from this country!

    • Editor
      | Reply

      That’s what I think too! For such a little country, they take a leading role in the world environmental movement.

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