The Foods eaten by the people of Bhutan

The cuisine of Bhutan is deeply rooted in its geography, climate, and cultural traditions. Over the last 500 years, the Bhutanese diet has largely revolved around locally available ingredients like red rice, buckwheat, and barley, as well as vegetables and chilies, which are an essential part of many dishes. Bhutan's elevation and climate make it suitable for the cultivation of various types of grains and vegetables that can thrive in cooler temperatures.

Staples:

  • Red Rice: A variety of rice unique to Bhutan that is often served as a base for meals.
  • Buckwheat and Barley: Particularly common in colder regions where rice is not easily grown; used to make noodles or flatbreads.

Proteins:

  • Beef and Yak Meat: Consumed in various forms including stews, jerky, and in mixed dishes with vegetables.
  • Chicken: Less common than beef but still featured in Bhutanese cuisine.
  • Fish: Limited consumption due to cultural and religious reasons.
  • Cheese: "Datshi" is a traditional Bhutanese cheese made from cow's or yak's milk and used in various dishes.

Vegetables:

  • Potatoes: Often used in stews or served as a side dish.
  • Turnips, Radishes, and Spinach: Commonly grown and consumed vegetables.

Spices and Herbs:

  • Chilies: An integral part of Bhutanese cuisine; the national dish "ema datshi" is a spicy stew made with chilies and cheese.
  • Garlic, Onions, and Ginger: Used to flavor many dishes.

Dairy:

  • Butter and Cheese: Often made from yak milk in higher elevations; used in cooking and in traditional butter tea.

Beverages:

  • Butter Tea: Made by churning tea, salt, and yak butter; a staple, especially in colder regions.
  • Ara: A traditional alcoholic beverage made from rice, maize, millet, or barley.

Sweets and Desserts:

  • Dried Fruits: Due to the limited availability of refined sugars, dried fruits are a common form of sweetener and dessert.

Historical Influences:

  • Tibetan Influence: Due to close cultural and historical ties with Tibet, several aspects of Bhutanese cuisine, like the use of yak meat and butter tea, are shared.
  • Indian Influence: Spices such as cardamom, and Indian-style tea with milk, are also found in Bhutan, reflecting some influence from neighboring India.

Regional Variations:

  • Highland Cuisine: Yak meat, butter tea, and barley are more common.
  • Lowland Cuisine: More variety of vegetables and fruits, and red rice is the staple.

Overall, the Bhutanese diet has remained relatively stable over the last 500 years, with a focus on locally sourced, fresh ingredients. The main changes would likely be in the introduction of new vegetables and fruits, as well as cooking methods, influenced by neighboring countries and modernization.

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