Here we have collated our food experience, for other experiences in Bhutan please refer other blog posts.
Staying in Bhutan for a week, it isn’t easy to find what suits your tastes. Although the Bhutanese traditional dish, the Datshi spread is quite good and has great balance of flavours, if you are not a rice eater or even a junk-food addict, you may find it tough. We tasted the Bhutanese cuisine for the first time on the way to Thimpu. We were driving from the border at Phuentsholing to Thimpu. I think it is customary of all taxis to take a halt for lunch at Hotel Sonia, that is half way for tourists traveling to Paro or Thimpu from the border. They do have other options like maggi and coffee, tea. While you enjoy a hot sip at Hotel Sonia, this how your view will look outside the window:
Now back to food, a typical Datshi spread will consist of about 4-5 elements:
A plate of red rice, a bowl of datshi preparation with any vegetable, a bowl of dal (lentil soup) – which is quite bland compared to the indian version-but good, some chilly pickle – really hot and spicy, some buttermilk or seasoned curd.
Datshi is a curry prepared with cheese and any green vegetable. The most common being Ema Datshi, which uses the 2 most common staple foods used in Bhutan i.e. Chilly and Cheese. Other kinds are –
Beans Datshi – beans and cheese curry
Nakey Datshi – hilly fern leaf and cheese curry, the fern leaf has a slight herbal and acidic taste, quite strong flavour
Shamu Datshi – Mushroom and cheese curry
Saag Datshi – Spinach and cheese curry
Many more exist, but we didn’t get to try all 🙂
Another dish is Thukpa, a big bowl of soup that has many elements in it, but we didn’t try that too, we were always too hungry to order a soup kind of dish.
That said, we always found one favourite place to hangout and get the kind of stuff we craved.
Hands down it has to be one place – Zicom Cafe. Coffee, tea and bakery. We also had Indian style dinner at the restaurant adjacent to it, its the last time you see any indian food in Bhutan 🙂
Our Hotel Nemo could best serve a decent chowmein, veg fried rice, and the momos were alright but not great.
Cafe De-lite, down the street serves quite good coffee, frothy and strong. Limited bakery items.
Cafe Relish situated in a quiet corner tucked away at the right end the road was rather a disaster, where they charge about 20% tax on the bill amount. Coffee was cold, and flavourless, normal potato fries and spicy potato fries have no difference in taste at all.
We ate at the Hotel Jigmeling restaurant most of the days, as they really listened to how we need our food and they always tried to get it right. Their chicken curry and vegetable curry were well done, but there is no chance of getting a naan or even a roti, for roti they just serve you a maida made luchi. I somehow liked the chowmein they served, crisp and fresh. Grilled chicken was a disaster, almost burnt and small pieces of chicken with bones. We always had to request them to make a strong tea, adding more tea leaf than usual, they got it right for about 2 out of 5.
Cafe Europeans down the street serves good coffee, pizzas and reasonable spaghetti, both with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. We went here more often for just coffee.
Cafe Brioche on a parallel street was the only place serving amazing pastries and cakes. We only tried some cheesecake and chocolate brownies..yummies. You could walk in thinking it is only a small counter, but it has a seating area inside.