Ema Datshi from Bhutan is a mixture of chili peppers and cheese that marks every single meal in Bhutan. This version is a delicious and easy recipe to make with ingredients from your local grocery store!
Of all foods in Bhutan, I think most Bhutanese would agree that Ema Datshi reigns supreme. Ema Datshi is a total staple in Bhutan. Not only is it served at most restaurants, it’s served at most meals. In every house, for almost every meal, Ema Datshi is a favorite. Even if it’s not a main dish in the meal, it’s almost always served as an appetizer.
A Vegetarian Meal
As you may know from my Bhutan Introduction, many of the Bhutanese are vegetarians. Bhutan is a Buddhist country, so killing of any kind is strictly forbidden. If any inhabitants of Bhutan ever want to eat meat, it needs to be imported to the country from India. For this reason, vegetarian recipes are very common in Bhutan, and this is a great one!
The Cheese Blend
Now, of course, this recipe is meant to be made with yak cheese. However, I wasn’t able to find yak cheese (are you sick of hearing this yet? I’ve said it for every Bhutanese recipe so far), so I made my own cheese blend to add to my Ema Datshi. I found that a mix of feta, farmer’s cheese, and sharp cheddar was the perfect blend for this recipe. Of course, if you have access to yak cheese, that would be the most authentic way to make this recipe.
Variations of Ema Datshi
All recipes for Ema Datshi are a little different from one another. Some are more watery or soupy, some seem more like peppers smothered in melted cheese. This is a great mix in the middle, though the cheese doesn’t completely melt into the water. Farmer’s cheese tends to not melt into water, so the mixture ends up being more watery. I love it that way!
If you loved this recipe, make sure to post a picture of it on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #TheForeignFork and tag @TheForeignFork. You can also leave a comment on this post! Also make sure to check out this recipe for Pigeon Peas and Rice from The Bahamas and this Mangal (Roasted Vegetable) Salad from Azerbaijan.
Ema Datshi (Bhutan)
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- 1 poblano pepper, cut into thin strips
- 2 jalapenos, cut into thin strips
- ½ tbsp garlic
- 1 sweet onion , sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 oz feta cheese
- 4 oz farmers cheese
- 2 oz sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 sliced tomato
- ½ cup water
- ½ tsp salt
- Wash the chili peppers, remove the seeds, and cut them into very thin, horizontal strips (about ¼ of an inch thick). Wash the tomato, cut in half, and the cut into thin, half-moon slices.
- Set a pan on the stove and fill it with ½ cup of water. Now add all of the chopped peppers, chopped garlic, sliced onion, salt, and butter into the pan.
- Cover the pot and boil it on low flame for about 20 minutes.
- Stir in cheese and allow it to melt.
- Enjoy plain in a bowl or served over red rice.
Getting excited and planning for my next week of cooking!! I try to get a recipe from a friend/colleague with each new recipe But when I can’t find a friend or colleague I always come to your blog. As you may imagine, I can’t find anyone I know personally who know much about Bhutan. Quite a bummer now that I’ve read your post! I’m adding it to my bucket list STAT! I will be making this next week And will let you know what I end up thinking of it. Not a big fan of spicy so we shall see 🙂 also thought it was interesting to read that although they are a very vegetarian country, they have a history in cannibalism. Fascinating!! Thanks for the amazing content as always!
The Foreign Fork says
Hurray!! So glad that you keep coming back! Bhutan is such an interesting country and it looks so beautiful! It is on my bucket list to visit as well 🙂 I’m not a big fan of spicy myself but I did like this dish! I hope you like it as well.
Dorothy Stedman says
My husband and I lived in Bhutan for three years while a leprosy hospital was being built. I have to say I never came across that recipe! We were there 1991 – 1994. We discovered a veg. called fern cross. It looked liked fern but tasted delicious. I thoroughly recommend a visit there if you can, my husband has written a book about his experiences there. It is a beautiful country and the people very friendly.
The Foreign Fork says
Hi Dorothy, Thanks so much for leaving a comment. That sounds like really important work and a great experience!! Ema Datschi is the national dish of Bhutan, so I’m surprised you never had it! I would LOVE to visit Bhutan one day… it seems beautiful and like it has wonderful people.