The Proven Platter, Bhutan – August 2017
Wow, we are visiting a totally new country this month: Bhutan. Did you know that Bhutan was recently named the happiest country on earth? Their government actually measures the happiness quotient of their people using a metric called the Gross National Happiness (GNH). I’d love to know what the questions are!
It probably helps that Bhutan, also known as the last Shangri-La on earth, is a truly majestic, serene, beautiful country, and that they are mostly Buddhists. So let’s go there and see what is on their dinner tables.
I have three recipes for you this month. Bhutanese Buckwheat Noodles, known as “Puta” are delicious, and I think are a perfect meal in the midst of summer. The buckwheat noodles are made from scratch, using a traditional wooden press called a “puta-par” to form the noodles. Buckwheat has long been a nutritious staple of the mountainous Bumthang region, and during the fall, you can see the grain being threshed by hand just as it has been for centuries. Two specialties made from buckwheat flour are especially popular: hefty pancakes, or khuli, often served for breakfast with local honey, and puta or noodles.
I’m guessing though, that not too many of us want to make our own buckwheat noodles. So I’ve offered the suggestion of using Japanese Soba (which are buckwheat noodles), and can be purchased at Asian markets or a well-stocked grocery store. If you are experienced at making pasta and would like to be really authentic, I’ve included the measurements for the ingredients to make your own noodles and run them through a pasta maker.
I’ve also included a recipe for Ema Datshi, commonly known as the national dish of Bhutan. Originally, I was planning to use this recipe to launch the Proven Platter this month. Since Ema Datshi (which means chiles and cheese) is the national dish of Bhutan, I wanted to highlight this delicious concoction. But upon further consideration, I realized that it is not a practical dish for our purposes – that of bringing food to a potluck dinner. Given that the dish has melted cheese as a major component, it doesn’t really travel well.
But I really want to share it because of its popularity in Bhutan. If your group is small and you have the ability to prepare this dish at the host house, I highly recommend it. It takes just ten minutes to cook the vegetables, and just a couple of minutes to melt the cheese. You could bring your vegetables already cut up in a pot, and then cook and finish the dish on site. Although it does sound a bit like a recipe that would never work, I was very intrigued by it and decided to give it a try. It was absolutely delicious. I urge you to think about it as a take on our own “nacho” dip. Cheese and chiles make a mighty fine combination.
And finally, a recipe for Bhutanese red rice. It is one of the few rices that grow in the highlands and is commonly eaten. I hope you can find this rice as it’s really tasty. I found it in the bulk section of my grocery store, and you can also buy it online. Sometimes it is referred to as Himalayan rice.
I hope you enjoy trying one of these recipes this month. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments. I love hearing from you! email@example.com
Bhutanese Buckwheat Noodles with Chile and Scallions (Puta) (Tested)
Serves 4 to 6
Buckwheat has long been a nutritious staple of the mountainous Bumthang region, and one of the specialties made from buckwheat flour is this dish of noodles (puta) and scallions.
I’ve adapted the original recipe by adding in some vegetables to make this a more complete meal. I used asparagus and snap peas, lightly blanched and then tossed into the final dish. Use whatever you have on hand – green beans, bell peppers, peas or corn would be nice as well.
2 bundles (about 7 oz.) dried buckwheat/soba noodles, cooked according to package directions
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ medium red or yellow onion, thinly sliced, then roughly chopped
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 fresh green chile, serrano or jalapeno, thinly sliced, seeds removed for less heat
1 tsp. soy sauce
Optional: sliced snap peas, snow peas, asparagus or green beans, blanched
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet. Don’t skimp on the oil, as it will be the sauce for the noodles. Add the sliced onions and the chile, sauté until the onion is translucent and turning slightly golden.
Add the green onions and stir for 30 seconds. Add the cooked buckwheat noodles, soy sauce, and any optional ingredients that you choose to use. Stir until mixed well, add salt and pepper to taste. Add a splash of water if it seems dry. May be served at room temperature or chilled.
Ingredients for handmade buckwheat noodles
2 cups buckwheat flour
½ cup all purpose flour
3 large eggs
½ tsp. salt
Make as you would make regular pasta dough. Run through a pasta machine on the thin noodle setting.
Recipe contribution and photo credit: Linda McElroy
Recipe adapted from: “Return to the Rivers,” by Vikas Khanna