A slice of Bhutan
The best of Bhutanese food is here in Pune at Sen5es, Marriott Suites
With the summer sun glaring at you and daytime temperatures soaring high, all you can think of is escaping to a hill station in the Himalayas and putting up your feet and enjoying a bowl of steaming hot momos or slurping some spicy noodles. Some of you might have actually boarded the flight and right now, enjoying the cool environs and the hot delectables. But some of you could be staying here and taking care of your job, family and home. If you are still yearning for the mountains, try some Bhutanese food and feel the hills coming alive.
Chef Wangchuk from Le Meridien, Thimphu, Bhutan, will take you on an expedition of the best of Bhutanese food that you will relish. Since it’s very cold up in the mountains, people there make it a point to consume a lot of Suja which is butter tea.
Similar to the masala chai that Indians have in winter, Suja is a light buttered tea and you get hints of silky salted butter when you sip on this faint milky tea. Since we’ve never tried the combination of butter and tea before, the saltiness and the oily-ness from the tea was really surprising for our tastebuds, but the taste soon grew on us and we finished the cup that was served to us.
Momos in recent times have become really popular as street food even in Pune, but after having the Bhutanese version, which follows the authentic recipe, we’d like to say that theirs was any day better. The steamed dumplings were served with a lemon chilli coriander dip and chilli flakes — ezay, which makes it a complete ‘momo chat’. The less spicy dumplings and the hot ezay perfectly balanced the flavours and the dip added a punch to the dish. Our suggestion: Don’t miss out on these momos because a) they are delicious and b) they will transport you to the hilly and cool terrains of Bhutan.
Bhutanese love indulging in a variety of rice — be it corn rice, red rice or even jasmine rice. For the main course, we tried their Kharang, which is a type of Eastern Bhutanese rice — a traditional staple food. The maize-rice has subtle flavours and goes well with Shamu Datshi (mushroom stew made with cheese) which has a slightly runny consistency. A simple recipe that has chopped mushrooms, butter, and some heavenly cheese along with chillies and vegetables, this dish goes well with rice and you cannot help but dig in for more.
Well, what is better than regular fried rice? It’s definitely Shamday, which is the Bhutanese spin of the fried rice that is served with minced chicken and egg, and has lots of fresh veggies which add a bit of crunch and flavour to the rice. What’s more, the rice is flavoured with Bhutanese spices.
Along with the rice dishes, we tried a number of curries, of which the Shakam Datshi tasted the best with the fried rice. The spicy tender beef chunks in a cheesy gravy is what you would crave on a cold winter night, but we enjoyed it on a summer evening too. The taste was not at all complex but rather homely — lots of chillies, cheese and beef cooked to perfection. The chef also mentioned that Shakam Datshi is one of the signature dishes of Bhutan.
When you think of a hilly, cold region one dish that you cannot do without is noodles. At the food festival, we tried the 1960’s Bhutanese Spicy Chicken Noodles, which had flat noodles along with minced chicken cooked in the spicy chilli ezay. What we would like to add here is that the Bhutanese chillies do not just give the food a rich red colour but also add a punch of spiciness that is not very heaty but extremely flavourful.
If you are wondering why the noodles are called 1960’s, here’s the story: 1960 was when instant noodles were introduced to the world, hence this spicy chicken noodle dish takes inspiration from there.
And just when we thought the noodles couldn’t get any better, the chef asked us to try it with Jasha Nyazan (minced chicken in stew), which the Bhutanese pair with red rice. The spicy stew with curry-like consistency is something that you must try. The perfectly cooked minced chicken in the red stew gets its colour and flavours from the chillies and Bhutanese spices.
For many, Bhutanese cuisine is a novelty so if you are trying their food, you must also give their desserts a try. Deasi, which was sticky sweetened jasmine rice packed with the goodness of dry fruits, is similar to our payasam. The best thing about this dessert is that it is not too sweet but it gives you a real good satisfaction of finishing a happy meal.
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Indulge in the homely flavours of Bhutan at the Bhutanese Food Festival at Sen5es, Marriott Suites, Koregaon Park Annexe, Mundhwa, Pune, till May 18, from 6.30 pm onwards