Datshi is Bhutanese for cheese, vegetables finished with cheese was one of the repeated food experiences, especially chilli cheese, the rather delicious Ema Datshi the national dish of Bhutan. I have tried chilli cheese in a number of different places, it’s never quite the same green chillies, red chillies, with added onion and garlic, or/ with added tomato and shallot, or quite thin with rice vermicelli added. By far my favourite was the version made with dried red chillies with added chives, it packed a real punch.
Bhutanese cheese is unlike any other cheese I’ve tried it’s salt free and incredibly dry, I guess it would be similar to ricotta if you squeezed all of the liquid from it. I will just use a crumbly feta when I remake Bhutanese food at home remembering to be more careful with the salt.
Other vegetables I ate that received the cheese finish were mushrooms, chayote (a form of squash) spinach (with added chilli) and broccoli. I also tried rice vermicelli finished with cheese, I didn’t like that very much, it was really weird.
Vegetables were served in other ways too, in fact a large percentage of each meal was vegetable based. There were a few salads, usually very simple salads, carrot and cabbage, cucumber and lettuce to name a few. Otherwise the vegetables were generally steamed or fried in oil and tossed with fried garlic, ginger, chilli or onion.
Locally produced rice is always short grain, not glutinous or starchy just short. The red rice in particular was delicious with a firm chewy texture and nutty hint to the rice, I relished it when I was lucky enough to be served it. Red rice also features twice in a traditional Bhutanese breakfast in the form of rice porridge, flavoured with ginger and finished with butter, and as a fried rice served with a fresh chilli salsa (containing cheese) and a flat omelette.
Chilli and cheese also combine to make a delicious popular condiment, made with either fresh or dried chillies, the dried ones tossed over flame, chopped and mixed with diced spring onion, coriander and cheese, moistened with a few drops of mustard oil, it is quite delicious and helped me through the more tourist focused places.