At the advent of spring, from the kingdom of happiness Chef Tsering brings his bag packed with authentic ingredients and spices from Bhutan to create the true taste of Bhutan at the Bhutanese Food Festival inside the kitchen of Vintage Asia at JW Marriott Kolkata. I was honoured to be invited to share the table with few eminent personalities on the opening day of the festival.
A country that always been ranked as the happiest place in the world yet loves their food to be hot and spicy. A country whose people are so sweet in nature but they do not have desserts in their cuisine. A country who recognizes chili and cheese stew as their national dish.
Our exotic culinary journey to the Land of Thunder Dragons started with Hoentay. Originated from the Haa Valley in Bhutan, Hoentay are similar to momos, but they are made with a buckwheat dough wrapper. The dumplings are filled with a combination of a spinach and cheese. Aside there is a local street food variant Vegetable and Cheese Momo. Try these dumplings with piping hot clear broth and Ezay (chilli garlic sauce).
Buckwheats are highly nutritious grown in high altitudes and staple food in the Bumthang region.
Oh! I dearly missed couple of my favorites like Ema Datshi and Juma in appetizers.
In salad we had Goen Hogay – a light and refreshing salad where slices of cucumber are mixed with onions, tomatoes, chili peppers, cilantro, and Bhutanese cheese. Before heading to the main course, relished sip to flavoursome Kakur Jaju, which is a pumpkin based soup where roasted pumpkin is blended with milk and cheese to give a creamy texture and spiked with Bhutanese chili oil and Thingay (sichuan pepper).
Moving to mains, Jasha Maroo is a rustic chicken stew. Diced chicken cooked with ginger, onion and tomato. Ginger is the essence of this preparation. Touch of coriander leaves to finish the dish with. Shakam Datshi made using beef which is cut into bite sized pieces and simmered with yak cheese, garlic, oil, split chilies, onion, and tomatoes. Phaksha Paa is made using pork cooked with mountain vegetables like radish and blend of spices from chef’s bag and chilies. Pork is first stir-fried and then added to the dish. The perfect fat to meat ratio of 70:30 creates magic to this dish. All these sort of curries and stew can be enjoyed with Bhutanese Red Rice.
Red Rice is gluten-free, wheat-free, rich in minerals and highly nutritious.
For the first I tried Dolom Ngow Ngo. It is a stir fried egg plant with spices, scallion, garlic and chilis tickled my taste buds, never tasted anything like this. Khuley is a Bhutanese version of pancake is made from buckwheat. Also there is Puta – a Bhutanese version of spaghetti, again made from buckwheat.
When one visits the Bumthang region must visit a local farm house and enjoy their home made buckwheat noodles and pancakes.
In desserts section, we had Khabsey with Zaow Pudding. Khabsey are traditional Tibetan deep fried cookies while Zaow are crunchy puffed rice served as munchies, a popular snacking item of Bhutan. Crunchy Khabsey is topped on the soft bed of pudding with sesame caramelized top. Mild sweetness of the dish was an excellent end to the spicy and hot gastronomic journey.
However, as mentioned earlier desserts are not part of the authentic Bhutanese cuisine, in this festive menu desserts are made available through fusioned culinary output.
Where: Vintage Asia, JW Marriott Kolkata
When: 26 Feb to 10 Mar’20
Pocket Pinch: INR 2222 ++ for two (without alcohol)
Read here about my earlier experience with Bhutanese cuisine at Za Khang, Kalimpong. May be the only Bhutanese restaurant in India.
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