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Chinese Food: Popular in Bhutan

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Chinese Food in Asia (but not China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan)

Winter Volume: 2015 Issue: 22(4) pages: 31 to 32


Bhutan has unique food culture and traditions; all handed down through many generations. With no global food chains in its cities and towns, it does share hotness with the Sichuan Province; and it is located south of theirs and south of the Himalayan Mountains.

Although the majority of rural Bhutanese prefer their own local cuisine, those of India, the European continent, and China have gained in popularity. They sate the palette of the local urban population, others, and of the surging heterogeneous tourist populations who visit here. Chinese cuisine in particular is integrating with that of the Bhutanese, as is its hospitality in context of world globalization.

Although the majority of rural Bhutanese prefer their own cuisine, those of India, the European continent, and China have gained in popularity. They sate the palette of the local urban population, others, and of the surging heterogeneous tourist populations who visit here. Chinese cuisine in particular is integrating with that of the Bhutanese, as is its hospitality in context of world globalization.

Because Chinese cuisine features diversified color, aromatics, and excellent taste, Bhutanese people love to eat it and love to cook it. Chefs say the easily available Chinese ingredients are key. They are found in most grocery stores and local markets, and Chinese cuisine is perceived as healthy and nutritious incorporating balanced ingredients essential for a healthy diet. Moreover, healthier cooking styles such as stir-frying, steaming, and noodle preparations are many of the ways and whys it has soared in popularity.

From a touristic point of view, China has emerged over the years, as the second biggest source of Bhutan’s international arrivals; second to the United States. This is one main reason for the increase of Chinese cuisine in Bhutan. Almost all restaurants and hotels have elements of their food in their menus. There is the ubiquitous chow mien noodles to occasional Chinese hot pot delicacies as is the one seen on this page. Highlighting one restaurant by name, Chh’a Bistro and Bar which is in Thimphu City, this eatery serves some of the best renditions of Chinese food in Bhutan.

Named by His Eminence Dzongar Khyentse Rinpoche, a Buddhist Master meaning ‘to bring luck and good fortune,’ this eatery has ambiance which may lack ‘Chineseness’ but does have Bhutanistic design both in its indoor and outdoor seating areas. Each of these has thirty covers or seats.

This restaurant is famous for its Chinese Hot Pot which makes it unique and different from other restaurants in this city. This Chinese dish costs some twenty dollars per table while other Chinese and Bhutanese meals range from five to ten dollars in US currency

Guests here see and enjoy exotic Bhutanese costumes and friendly service. They may be flabbergasted to see them on the staff who bring authentic Chinese foods to their tables. This also makes the Chinese feel at home when in Bhutan.

Many restaurants in my country of Bhutan serve delicious food and have local cultural entertainment. Patrons see local performances that create warmth and memorable experiences. Diners watch them and enjoy these Bhutanese experiencing and Chinese food in a different social and cultural milieu.

This eatery is a cosmopolitan restaurant where many Chinese and tourists go. There are also many walk-ins thanks to their listing on Trip Advisor, the world’s largest travel website. At the moment, Chh’a is ranked number nine of the sixty-nine restaurants listed to go to in Bhutan. Apart from tourists, Chh’a serves many locals at festive and family dinners with their fine food. So when in Bhutan, do not miss enjoying a meal there.

My country has more tourists coming to support and cheer for their national teams for the FIFA World Cup qualifying rounds and will also have them for the finals in 2018. Bhutan did host China on June 16 in 2015 and Hong Kong on October 13, 2015 at the Changlimethang Stadium in Thimphu City. There, thousands of Chinese fans joined local soccer fans and others from around the world cheering at these events. They were supporting and cheering in Bhutan enjoying these events, and they created a high demand for Chinese foods in Bhutan and many diners told us they enjoyed the games and the foods, Chinese and all others.

Bhutan is rich in living culture and has a pristine natural environment. It continues to gain momentum as an emerging high-end destination in South-Asia. While these tourists were here, many did join locals to eat some local Bhutanese foods. Our tourism industry attracted many of them and other tourists, and many reported they enjoyed their stay here. This person to person endorsement will bring others to follow them for the rest of the games.

Local Bhutanese in the United States and elsewhere know Ema Datshi is a very popular piquant dish in this country. This magazine's editor shares a recipe for it.
_____
Jigme Norbu is an instructor at the Royal Institute of Tourism and Hospitality in Thimphu City where diploma courses are given in hotel and tourism management. Mr. Norbu is a gastronome and avid traveler, he loves to write food articles. He thanks Dawa Dorji, owner of Chh’a Bistro and Bar located at Changzamtok in his city for information about his,the Chh’a eatery.
Bhutanese Ema Datshi
Ingredients:
I onion, sliced fine
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
10 chili peppers, seeded and sliced fine
6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and smashed
3 tomatoes, peeled and diced
½ pound farmer cheese
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
2 to 4 cups cooked rice or noodles (optional)
Preparation:
1. Boil onion in two cups of water for three minutes, add the chili peppers, garlic, and tomatoes, and reduce the heat and simmer for fifteen minutes, then remove from the heat source.
2. Add the cheese and coriander, cover and set aside for fifteen more minutes, then mix in the coriander just before serving. If desired, serve on white rice, red rice, or noodles.

                                                                                                                                                       
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