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Bhutanese Food

There is a fair choice of restaurants in Paro and Thimphu but most tourists eat in their hotels where hygiene is good and chefs temper the spicy Bhutanese dishes to suit Western tastes. Rice is the staple (sometimes flavoured with saffron or of the red variety) apart from in central Bhutan where the altitude makes rice cultivation difficult. Buckwheat is more common here. The country is replete with apple orchards, rice paddies and asparagus, which grows freely in the countryside and there are over 400 varieties of mushroom including orchid mushrooms.

Some of popular Bhutanese dish includes:
Ema Datshi:
This is the National Dish of Bhutan. A spicy mix of chillis and the delicious local cheese known as Datshi. This dish is a staple of nearly every meal and can be found throughout the country. Variations on Ema Datshi include adding green beans, ferns, potatoes, mushrooms or swapping the regular cheese for yak cheese.

Momos:
These Tibetan-style dumplings are stuffed with pork, beef or cabbages and cheese. Traditionally eaten during special occasions, these tasty treats are a Bhutanese favourite.

Phaksha Paa:
Pork cooked with spicy red chillis. This dish can also include Radishes or Spinach. A popular variation uses sun-dried (known as Sicaam). Hoentoe: Aromatic buckwheat dumplings stuffed with turnip greens, datshi (cheese), spinach and other ingredients.

Jasha Maru:
Spicy minced chicken, tomatoes and other ingredients that is usually served with rice.

Red Rice:
This rice is similar to brown rice and is extremely nutritious and filling. When cooked it is pale pink, soft and slightly sticky.

Goep (Tripe):
Though the popularity of tripe has diminished in many countries it is still enjoyed in Bhutan. Like most other meat dishes, it is cooked with plenty of spicy chilies and chili powder.

Specialities:
Datse (cows milk cheese), sometimes served in a dish with red chillies (ema datse).

Tshoem (curry), usually served with rice.

Eue chum (pink rice), a nutty-flavoured variety unique to Bhutan.

Things to know:
Meals are often buffet-style and mostly vegetarian. Meat and fish are now imported from nearby India, and Nepali Hindus living in Bhutan are licensed to slaughter animals. Usual precautions apply.

Tipping:
Not widely practised.

Regional drinks:
The most popular drink is tea, sweet or Tibetan style with salt and butter. Ara is a spirit distilled from rice.
Chang (a kind of beer, cereal-based and generally home-brewed).

Legal drinking age: 18.

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