Deepika Padukone Stirs Up Interest In Bhutanese Ema Datshi

Bhutanese cuisine, with its distinctive flavors and ingredients, offers a window into the country's rich cultural heritage and agrarian lifestyle. Central to this culinary tradition is Ema Datshi, a beloved dish that exemplifies the harmony of simplicity and taste inherent in Bhutanese cooking. This spicy, cheese-laden stew has not only captivated the palates of locals but has also garnered international admiration, with celebrities like Deepika Padukone sharing their fondness for the dish.

The Essence of Bhutanese Cuisine

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The Bhutanese culinary landscape is shaped by the country's diverse geography, ranging from lush valleys to towering mountains. This varied terrain allows for a wide array of agricultural products, forming the basis of the Bhutanese diet. Staples such as rice, maize, and buckwheat accompany a rich variety of vegetables and fruits, with chilies playing a central role, not merely as a spice but as a main ingredient in many dishes.

Ema Datshi stands out as the national dish, celebrated for its bold combination of chilies and cheese. This simple yet profound dish mirrors the Bhutanese principles of living in harmony with nature, utilizing locally sourced and seasonal ingredients.

Ema Datshi: A Culinary Emblem

The roots of Ema Datshi are deeply embedded in Bhutan's agricultural traditions, embodying the nation's reliance on farming and the ingenuity of making delectable meals from limited resources. The dish is a testament to the Bhutanese ethos of simplicity, made with just chilies and homemade cheese, and sometimes enhanced with additional vegetables for variety.

The preparation of Ema Datshi is straightforward, emphasizing the flavors of its core ingredients. Chilies are simmered with onions and garlic, to which cheese is added, melting into a creamy sauce that envelops the spicy chilies. This culinary masterpiece is typically accompanied by red rice, providing a comforting meal that resonates with the Bhutanese spirit of warmth and hospitality.

Global Recognition & Celebrity Endorsement

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Ema Datshi's journey from a local Bhutanese kitchen to international acclaim highlights its universal appeal. The dish gained further attention when Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone shared her experience with Ema Datshi during her visit to Bhutan. Captivated by its tantalizing blend of flavors, Padukone's endorsement introduced Ema Datshi to a broader audience, showcasing the richness of Bhutanese cuisine.

For those intrigued by the dish and eager to try it at home, a simple recipe has been shared by bloggers Dr. Rupali and Saloni Tak. The recipe calls for green chilies, Bhutanese or a substitute cheese like feta or Swiss, onions, tomatoes, garlic, and vegetable oil, creating a stew that is both spicy and creamy. This accessible recipe allows food enthusiasts to recreate a taste of Bhutan in their own kitchens, experiencing the warmth and complexity of Ema Datshi.

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The name "Ema Datshi" itself is a direct reflection of the dish's core ingredients and Bhutan's culinary traditions. "Ema" translates to "chili" in Dzongkha, Bhutan's national language, signifying the importance of chilies not just as a condiment but as a staple vegetable in Bhutanese cuisine. "Datshi" refers to cheese, a fundamental element in many Bhutanese dishes, often homemade from the milk of cows or yaks grazing in the high Himalayan pastures. This combination of chili and cheese encapsulates the essence of Bhutanese flavors — a harmonious blend of heat from the chilies tempered by the creamy, comforting texture of melted cheese.

For those intrigued by this flavorful dish, here's a simplified version of the recipe, inspired by Deepika Padukone's culinary explorations in Bhutan and shared by food enthusiasts Dr. Rupali and Saloni Tak:


  • 4-5 large green chilies, slit lengthwise (keeping the stems intact to moderate the spiciness)
  • 1 cup of Bhutanese or any mild cheese (feta or Swiss cheese as substitutes)
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste


  • Heat the vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat and sauté the onions and garlic until translucent.
  • Add the green chilies and sauté for a few minutes until they are slightly softened but still retain some crunch.
  • Introduce the tomatoes to the pan, cooking them down until they release their juices and soften.
  • Cube the cheese and add it to the pan, stirring continuously until it melts into a creamy consistency.
  • Allow the mixture to simmer on low heat for 5-7 minutes, enabling the flavors to meld.
  • Season with salt to taste, bearing in mind that traditional Bhutanese cuisine often uses salt sparingly.
  • Once the cheese has fully melted and the mixture has thickened to your liking, the Ema Datshi is ready to serve.

This dish is typically enjoyed with red rice in Bhutan but can also be paired with any type of rice or flatbreads, adapting to your personal preference. Garnishing with fresh cilantro or parsley can add a burst of flavor and color, enhancing the dish's visual appeal and taste. Through this recipe, food lovers everywhere can bring a piece of Bhutanese tradition into their homes, experiencing the warmth and zest of Ema Datshi firsthand.

Ema Datshi became Bhutan's national dish due to a combination of its widespread popularity, its representation of Bhutanese culinary traditions, and its use of locally sourced, staple ingredients. The dish embodies the essence of Bhutanese cuisine, which prioritizes simplicity, local produce, and bold flavours, particularly the heat from chilies and the rich, comforting taste of cheese.

Chilies and cheese are fundamental components of the Bhutanese diet, available throughout the country and used in various traditional dishes. Ema Datshi, with its straightforward yet delicious combination of these ingredients, is a staple in almost every Bhutanese household, enjoyed across different regions and communities. Its versatility and adaptability, allowing for variations with different vegetables or types of cheese, have made it a beloved dish among Bhutanese people.

Moreover, Ema Datshi reflects Bhutan's agricultural practices and the importance of self-sufficiency in the country's remote and mountainous regions. The ability to use home-grown chilies and locally produced cheese speaks to Bhutan's ethos of living in harmony with nature and making the most of the resources at hand.

The dish's prominence in Bhutanese festivals, gatherings, and everyday meals, coupled with its deep cultural significance and the role it plays in showcasing Bhutanese hospitality, has cemented its status as the national dish. As Bhutan has opened up to the world, Ema Datshi has also become a symbol of Bhutanese identity abroad, introducing international audiences to the flavors and traditions of Bhutanese cuisine.

Ema Datshi is more than just a dish; it embodies the essence of Bhutanese culture, from its agricultural roots to its communal dining traditions. Its international recognition, bolstered by endorsements from figures like Deepika Padukone, underscores the universal language of food and its power to connect diverse cultures. Through Ema Datshi, Bhutan offers the world a taste of its rich culinary heritage, characterized by simplicity, sustainability, and a profound sense of harmony.