food in bhutan

Try these 10 authentic food dishes in Bhutan

Author: Sonam Dargay
Date: 2020-03-06

Share using:

Bhutan is not just a cultural and environmental travel destination. Bhutan is also a unique food travel destination. Authentic Bhutanese food dishes are tightly related with the culture, tradition, and nature of Bhutan. However, if you visit the modern towns of Bhutan, like the capital town of Thimphu in the western interior of Bhutan and the commercial town of Phuentsholing in southern Bhutan, you will notice that Bhutanese food culture is influenced by Indian and western food culture. But there are some authentic Bhutanese food-niched restaurants in these areas.

Nonetheless, if you visit rural settlements like villages in eastern Tashigang district of Bhutan, central Bumthang district of Bhutan, and Haa western district of Bhutan, you will come across very a unique food culture. Some of the popularly known delicacies of Bhutan include Ema Datshi (chili-cheese curry), Sikam Paa (fried dried pork), Gondo Datshi (fried eggs with cheese in plenty of butter), and Puta (buckwheat noodle),

In this post about food in Bhutan, I am going to share some of the authentic Bhutanese cuisines that you must try if you ever visit Bhutan.

Ema Datshi

The use of chilies in the food dishes of Bhutan is similar to how coconut is used abundantly in south Indian food dishes. In almost all the food dishes unique to Bhutan, you will come across the use of chilies. Ema-datshi is a curry prepared with enough use of chilies and Bhutanese cheese (sometimes fermented cheese, especially in eastern Bhutan) with common seasonings like salt, edible oil, etc. Ema-datshi is prepared hot and spicy and served with rice.

If you visit every nook and cranny of Bhutan, the one common thing you will see in every Bhutanese’s heart is the love for chilies and ema-datshi.


Ema-datshi, dish of Bhutan


Khur-le is a Bhutanese pancake made using wheat or buckwheat flour. Commonly, bitter buckwheat is preferred in making khur-le in Bhutan.

There are not enough documents to show how khur-le reached Bhutan, but there is enough evidence to show that it is as old as the history of Bhutan. In the olden times, when the inhabitants of Bhutan primarily depended on cattle as one of the means of sustenance apart from agriculture, it is said that khur-le was served as packed-lunch for the cattle-herders who would spend the whole day in thick forests herding cattle.

Today, in modern Bhutan, Khur-le is served as a healthy breakfast. The main ingredient is bitter buckwheat, it has high nutritional value. It is known as a good source of protein, fiber, and healthy carbohydrates. Some of the health benefits of buckwheat include boosting heart health, improving digestion, weight management, and anti-aging effects.


Khur-le, dish of Bhutan


Hoentays are similar to momos, thus, hoentay is a dumpling with buckwheat dough wrapping. It is known to have originated in Haa Valley in Bhutan. Unlike momo fillings, hoentays are rich-textured and filled with a combination of turnip leaves and cheese. Like momos, hoentays are fried or steamed.

If you visit Haa, the most picturesque valley in Bhutan, you will realise that hoentays are an important part of food-style. In recent years, it is being served in some restaurants and hotels in urban towns like Paro and Thimphu, Bhutan.


Hoentay, dish of Bhutan (Courtesy:


Puta is yet another buckwheat-based delicacy in Bhutan. Puta is basically handmade noodles popular in central district of Bhutan, Bumthang. The noodles are prepared, boiled, and sometimes fried with butter or vegetable oil with a light salt and black pepper. It is available in the local markets in Bhutan.

In Bhutan, puta is often served for breakfast and during important occasions such as celebration of Losar (Bhutanese New Year festival). There are several restaurants across Bhutan that offer putas.

Sikam Paa

Sikam paa is loved by the non-vegetarians of Bhutan as a special food delicacy for special occasions. It is served during special occasions celebrated in Bhutan such as Losar, important public gatherings, and ceremonies. It is a food dish prepared using dried pork, often fried with red chilies. This popular food dish is available in almost all the non-vegetarian restaurants in Bhutan.

Yaksha Shakam

Loosely translated, yaksha means yak’s meat and shakam means dried meat in Bhutan. Hence, yaksha shakam is a dish prepared using dried yak’s meat. Yaks are reared as important cattle by nomads residing in higher altitudes such a Gasa and Lingzhi in Bhutan.

As Bhutan is a tantric Mahayana Buddhist country, it is often hard to get hold of yak meat. The yak meat sold in the markets are of those that die in accidents in difficult geographic terrain in the mountains. Thus, yaksha shakam curry is not as popular as beef and pork curry in any restaurant in Bhutan.


Hogay is the Bhutanese version of salad and can be made in a variety of ways. A popular version of hogay in Bhutan is one made with cucumber, known as Goen hogay. It is easy to prepare. Cucumber is sliced into small pieces and mixed with chili powder, chopped onions and tomatoes, a crumble of Bhutanese fresh cheese, and a light sprinkle of salt. It is common for hogay to be prepared during family and friends’ gatherings to eat along with hard drinks. The people of Bhutan also take it with meals like ezay.


Ezay is a chili paste mixed with a good amount of onions, tomatoes, and Bhutanese fresh cheese, which is similar to achar (pickle) in Indian dishes, commonly served all over Bhutan with any type of food—it is served with heavy food such as rice meals to light food such as dumplings. You will come across different flavors of ezay depending on the variety and amount of spices used.

The people of Bhutan love ezay with passion, and it is served as a complementary dish is most of the restaurants in Bhutan. It is like an appetizer. Any food without ezay is an incomplete meal in Bhutan.


Ezay with Khur-le, dish of Bhutan


Lom is a food dish prepared using dried turnip leaves. Dried turnip leaves are popular in the western region of Bhutan. The dried turnip leaves provide an alternative to green vegetables in harsh winters. In high altitudes of Bhutan, fresh vegetables are scarce or very hard to get. If you visit villages in high altitudes like in Haa, Bumthang, and Paro in Bhutan, you will come across turnip leaves being dried.

Lom food dish is usually prepared with dry beef and pork during Losar (New Year festival celebrated in Bhutan) and other special occasions celebrated in Bhutan. Lom is also used to prepare dumplings popularly known in Bhutan as hoentay.


Suja is a salted buttery milk tea loved by the locals of Bhutan. To prepare suja you need butter, salt, Bhutan-made tea leaves known as jare, and soda. Hot water is mixed with tea leaves, salt, and butter and is churned in a special container to let the butter mix well with the water.

Thick warm suja during cold weather with zow (fried rice) is a popular tea combination in Bhutan.


As mentioned earlier, Bhutan is not just a travel destination for nature and culture lovers. Bhutan has its own unique food culture that you will enjoy experiencing. If you ever get the chance to visit Bhutan, don’t forget to experience the authentic food of Bhutan.

Also read related articles about:

Food of Bhutan: Must try dishes in Bhutan

Good food is good mood

Experience this peaceful and scenic Himalayan kingdom with these Bhutan Tour Packages

Tour to the Dragon

Discover Bhutan:

Discover Trongsa in Bhutan

Discover Bumthang in Bhutan

No Comments

Trending Blogs

General Read More
Food of Sikkim
Leisure Read More
Know the best places to visit in North east India: Meghalaya and more
Adventure Rush Read More
Trekking in the lost kingdom of Mustang

Latest Blogs

Leisure Read More
An unruly yak at Tsomgo Lake- Did I survive the ride?
Leisure Read More
5 Offbeat Places to Visit in Darjeeling
Adventure Rush Read More
Self-Guided Walking tour of Gangtok
General Read More
8 bizarre dishes eaten in Northeast India
A call to all travel junkies
Share your amazing travel stories
inspire someone today!
Become a TOURGENIE contributor
Write for our blog
Want to explore more Activities?
Explore Activities
Dawki Adventure Camp-Meghalaya
Dawki Adventure Camp-Meghalaya
4 Days 3 Nights
Explore Activities
Trek Through Rural Mizoram
Trek Through Rural Mizoram
4 Days 3 Nights
Explore Activities
Tiger Hill Mountain Biking
Tiger Hill Mountain Biking
1 Days 0 Nights
  • Near Co-Operative, Middle Sichey Gangtok, East Sikkim, India, 737101