Traditional Foods to Eat in Bhutan (plus where to find them)

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If you are traveling to Bhutan looking for an authentic experience, your journey will not be complete without sampling these savored dishes. This article endeavors to make you recognize and appreciate traditional Bhutanese food and the recommended places to try these dishes.

In Bhutan, local cuisine is revered as the most significant aspect of its heritage and rich culture. It is a part of a tradition which has been preserved and presented to the next generation as nothing less than a gift. Our ancestors believed that food can heal the body and the soul. As a local, I can safely say that Bhutanese food is like no other food you have ever tasted anywhere in the world.

The best thing about Bhutanese food culture is not just the food, but the way it is treated and respected. The foods are always served in wooden bowls and are eaten with fingers to feel its texture and to build a bond with the food.

Red rice is the main component of a Bhutanese meal, which is eaten along with other side dishes of vegetables and meats prepared Bhutanese style.

Shakam paa with nakey

Try this dish at Babesa Village Restaurant

Shakam paa is dried beef jerky cooked with different vegetables that are usually dried. The trend of using dehydrated vegetables started back when farming was not feasible during winter so vegetables were dried, preserved and consumed.

Shakam paa is not an everyday meal for common Bhutanese people but is saved for special occasions like festivals and Bhutanese New Year. The best version of it is served at Babesa Village Restaurant. Set in an old traditional two-storied Bhutanese house, this restaurant owner decided to revamp it into an elegant restaurant which serves amazing local cuisine.  They compliment the shakam paa with Nakey which is wild ferns, and the combination is a star among both locals and foreigners. If you happen to visit Bhutan this is one place that must not be missed.

Location: Thimphu Express Way, Near Doutor Tobgyel SchoolThimphu 00975, Bhutan
Phone: +975 17 16 36 60

Ema Datshi

Try this dish at Folk Heritage Museum Restaurant

Ema Datshi is the unofficial national dish of Bhutan. Ema Datshi literally translates to chilies and cheese. Bhutanese people eat a lot of chilies. There is an interesting theory behind this. Winters in Bhutan are quite cold and people believed that the heat from the chilies helped them keep warm. So the spicier the chilies, the more they are loved by the locals.

Ema Datshi is the go-to dish for every Bhutanese, it is very easy to prepare and only two or three ingredients are required. Though different homes follow different methods and have their own recipes, cooking the chilies in butter and cheese is the most common way to prepare it.

The Folk Heritage Museum Restaurant is located inside the premise of the Folk Heritage Museum and the restaurant is set beautifully amidst an apple orchard. The restaurant only serves local cuisine and their Ema Datshi with red rice is to die for.

Location: Folk Heritage Museum | KawajangsaThimphu, Bhutan


Khuley with Ezay and Suja

Try this dish at Simply Bhutan Museum

Khuley is buckwheat pancakes. Ezay is a spicy chili salad. And Suja is salted butter tea. Bhutanese’ love for chilies can only be compared to their love for tea. They love tea and it may sound like a bluff, but Bhutanese people drink tea with all three of their meals. They believe that the hot tea helps to wash down the rich fatty foods.

The restaurant at the Simply Bhutan Museum serves local cuisine and their buckwheat pancakes are the best in town. Paired with some ezay and hot butter tea, this meal is something to remember your journey through Bhutan by. In the olden days when it was hard to get plenty of rice, this was the ideal meal for every Bhutanese. The museum is set in a traditional mud-rammed house and is a living museum which boasts of traditional artifacts. The experience is truly authentic.

Location: Genyen LamThimphu, Bhutan
Phone: +975 2 327 483

Beef Momo

Try this dish at Wangdi Restaurant

Wangki Restaurant is a paradise for Momo lovers. Momos are dumplings stuffed with either meat or vegetables and cheese. The restaurant is located in the heart of the busy street of Norzin Lam, just near Thimphu traffic pavilion. The momos with beef stuffing are the best. They are served with a hot bowl of dumpling soup, which will most certainly warm your heart. The restaurant balcony looks over the busy road and enjoying your hot dumpling while watching the dancing cop manage the traffic is a particularly interesting sight.


Try this dish at Ap Kado’sYangkhil Restaurant

This is an unusual dish even for most Bhutanese. This dish is prepared from the stomach lining of a cow, which is cleaned thoroughly and pressure cooked with various spices like chili powder and Sichuan pepper. This makes the dish quite spicy for a foreign palate, but if heat is not an issue for you then this dish will actually start to grow on you for its remarkably unusual taste. Yangkhil Restaurant serves only local cuisine and the restaurant is quite popular with the locals.

Location: Chang Lam, Thimphu, Bhutan


Though the article touches only some aspect of Bhutan’s traditional foods, I hope it gives the readers an idea about the food in Bhutan and hopefully it managed to interest some readers to visit Bhutan and try these amazing Bhutanese foods at these wonderful restaurants.



Wangmo is a travel blogger at BookMyTour and she strives to help travelers around the world know more about traveling to Bhutan through her articles. When she is not writing, she is probably reading about traveling and binge-watching TV shows.

Traditional Foods to Eat in Bhutan (plus where to find them)

2 thoughts on “Traditional Foods to Eat in Bhutan (plus where to find them)

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Hi Josh, I haven’t been to Paro so I don’t have any recommendations for there, but you can definitely find these traditional foods there.

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