Chilli and Cheese - Bhutan's sweet n spicy combo
17 Sep, 2013
Bhutan's national dish is a concoction of chillies, cheese and butter called Emma Datshi. Surely, the combination of ingredients sounds bizarre but in the right proportion, the outcome is simply lip-smacking. And even more delectable when eaten traditional Bhutanese red rice.
Every restaurant in Bhutan serves it, every day and for lunch and dinner and any other time of the day. Every home makes it, almost every day. At the local and small restaurants, the dish costs 50-60 BTN (Bhutanese Ngultrum pegged at the Indian rupee) while the bigger eating places charge 80 BTN and the five star types demand a cool 120 BTN.
According to Jamyang G who runs a restaurant in Paro, preparing Emma Datshi is like boiling water. "One cannot think of not cooking it everyday and keeping it available all day long. Besides, it is easy to cook and good for vegetarians.”
Emma in Bhutanese (Dzongkha) means chilli and Datshi means cheese. Bhutanese chillies are world-famous and come in different colours (red, green, white and brown if dried). They are either eaten fresh, made into different dishes or just fried. Chillies are sold everywhere – in market places, on the road, inside malls and homes often sport dried chillies hung outside the windows. The cheese used in making the dish is mostly from the Yak, sometimes cow.
Many locals have Emma Datshi, three times a day. Wangchu Gurung, a Thimpu resident says that chillies are considered part of the 'vegetable' family in Bhutan and not a spice."It is just part of our system and so we eat it all the time. No one gets tired of the taste."
It is easy to make Emma Datshi at home in India. The chillies may be different and the Yak cheese is difficult to procure but try using Dabboo Mirchi for the chillies and Paneer instead of Yak cheese - I suspect, it should turn out fine. Here is the how to make it.
Take a handful of chillies, slit and boil them. Once done (make sure there is enough water in the pan), add 1-2 tablespoons of butter. Then add 1-2 cubes of Amul Cheese and a small piece of Paneer. Keep stirring but make sure the chillies do not slit further. Once the added ingredients have melted, remove from fire. Serve warm or cold. Can be eaten with rice, bread or chapatti. Finding Bhutanese Red Rice may be a bother, the Kerala or Goan red rice should do just fine.