Customs and Cuisine of Bhutan

Customs and Cuisine of Bhutan

Bhutan was established some time between 2,000 – 1,500 BCE. It is called “Druk-Yui,” the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Bhutan is located in south central Asia in the eastern Himalayas. It is bordered by China to the north and India to the south, east and west. The ancient capital is Thimphu. Bhutan had little from much of the outside world until the late 1950s. Both India and England controlled Bhutan’s foreign affairs until 2007. The government is a constitutional monarchy with a democratic parliament.

The population is approximately 750,000 – 775,000 people. The main ethnic groups are the Sharchops and the Ngalops, who were the original settlers from Tibet. They practice Buddhism. About 25 percent of the population is from Nepal and their religion is Hindu. The primary language is Dzongkha, a dialect from Tibet.

The rugged, primarily mountainous country has climates that range from the hot, humid southern plains and fiver valleys on the Indian border, to the moderate wood-producing climate in the mid-Himalayan mountains, to the northern great Himalayan regions with very cold climates and glaciers. The rivers run from north to south and create fertile valleys for cultivation.

Most Bhutanese live in isolated villages in the valleys. Bhutan is famous for the “dzung,” fortified monasteries that are religious, art, and cultural centers.

Chief products are wood products, coal, dolomite and limestone.


Rice is a staple of Bhutanese cuisine. Both white and red rice are grown. Red rice is like brown rice but with a nutty taste. Corn and buckwheat are also cultivated. Wheat is used to make noodles. Vegetables include tomatoes, turnips, onions, greens such as spinach, green beans, hot peppers and radishes. Flavorings are used generously and many of the stews and dishes are spicy and hot. Curry, cardamom, garlic, turmeric and ginger are often used. The cuisine includes meats such as beef, chicken, pork, yak and goat, but many vegetarian dishes are popular with the Buddhists.

Beverages include butter tea, beers from cereal grains and rice wine. Dumplings and noodles are popular snack foods. The food of Bhutan is greatly influenced by Indian and Chinese cuisines.

“Ema datshi” is a national dish. It is a spicy stew with green chili peppers and cow milk cheese. Butter and cheese are made from cows and yaks.

“Momos” are popular dumplings stuffed with meat.

“Paksha Paa” is a pork and spicy red chili dish.

“Jasha Maru” is spicy chicken and tomatoes served with rice.


Cambridge World History of Food

World Book Encyclopedia

World Almanac and Book of Facts 2017


View Recipes from Bhutan