Authentic Bhutanese Souvenirs from Eastern Bhutan
Every district and village produce distinct products in Bhutan. To encourage rural communities to produce more authentic souvenirs and products, under the leadership of Her Majesty the Queen of Bhutan, the concept of OGOP (One Gewog, One Product) was introduced to cater to the growing demand in the market.
Bhutan’s population is in many ways, one large family. Around 65% of the people live on subsistence farming. These farmers are scattered in populated villages across the rugged terrains of the Himalayas. Rice is the staple diet in the lower regions and wheat, buckwheat, and maize in other valleys. Terrace farming - the practice of cutting flat areas out of a mountainous landscape or hilly areas to grow crops is prevalent.
In the past, Bhutanese communities settled in the valleys with limited communication. It is for this reason that the sense of individualism and independence are strong characteristics of the people.
One Gewog One Product (OGOP) is Her Majesty the Queen's initiative in 2015 to market farmers' produce to enhance the rural economy. OGOP focuses on providing end-to-end interventions to support the farmers in scaling, packaging, and marketing of their produce.
As of 2018, OGOP has purchased products worth more than Nu.10 million from farmers - food, herbs, handicrafts - showcasing 60 products of what Bhutanese can produce and sell, and to motivate the farmers. By 2018, OGOP had expanded this collection to more than 100 products from 80 gewogs, representing skills in art and craft, agriculture and dairy, herbs, packaged food, spices, and pickles, amongst others.
Souvenirs from the East
In Bhutan, Paro is known as the top hub to purchase souvenirs due to the sheer number of souvenir shops along the town. However, one should know that every district in Bhutan offers different unique products. Below are some of the popular souvenirs one should purchase while traveling to the Eastern part of Bhutan.
Tengma 'Beaten maize'
Tengma/Seap (Bhutanese beaten corn) is roasted and pounded maize used as breakfast cereal, often eaten with tea and snacks. Bhutanese people love binging on Tengma as a healthier option instead of snacks. Many people from the countryside around the country who grows maize, produces Tengma. However, since the eastern part of Bhutan grows more maize compared to the other regions, thus Sharshops is best known for Tengma production. One of the most popular places where local vendors sell Tengma is in Mongar-Lhuntse Junction.
Every household in eastern Bhutan will have at least one walnut tree around the vicinity. Besides cultivating potatoes, paddy, and maize, the Sharchops also grow cardamom and walnut due to the profitability of the crops. For the people of Maentsang Village of Bartsham Gewog in Trashigang, walnut has now become an alternate source of income.
Zhitpa (Zetoe) – Fermented Cheese from the Highland
The yaks and the cattles are literally the bread and butter of the semi-nomadic people of Merak, the Brokpas. These Brokpa herders depend on the yaks for milk, cheese, meat, wool and leather. The fermented Brokpa cheese or the “Zoedue” is the most sought after item for many Bhutanese chefs and housewives. The zoedue serves as a seasoning and adds flavors to authentic Bhutanese dishes. To acquire the zoedue, fresh cheese is placed and sewn up in the sheep's stomach, and then wrapped in yak's skins and kept for a few months to mature. The longer they keep it, the better the zoedue. A kilogram of fermented cheese could cost from Nu. 500 upward.