In the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan, are Bhutanese mostly vegetarians?

Email

Many foreigners perceive Bhutanese to be mostly vegetarians owing to its status as a Buddhist kingdom.

The predominant religion in Bhutan is Buddhism and given that Buddhism prohibits eating meat because of killing of animals violating the First Moral Precept and meat being considered an intoxicant to the body, which violates the Fifth Moral Precept, it’s expected that Bhutanese will be vegetarians. Buddhism also believes in life after death. That instills in Bhutanese a belief that the animals whose meat we consume could have been loved ones in past lives. These aspects make people perceive Bhutanese as mostly vegetarians.

However, meat is, by far, culturally rooted in Bhutanese cuisine. This could go back to times when people in a climatically cold region had to cross mountains for trade purposes and agricultural work needed more energy which resulted in a high carbohydrate and fat food habit.

Then again, if you have no qualms about a carb-on-carb diet, you should be good to go even if you are a vegetarian travelling to Bhutan. No kidding! Every meal will have rice and potato cheese curry on the menu. That doesn’t mean that meat lovers will have difficulty in finding a non-vegetarian meal. For a country with a major portion of its population practicing Buddhism, surprisingly meat is also a delicacy.

As diverse as Bhutan’s culture, there are a myriad of Bhutanese meals. The main of many Bhutanese meals is rice. Side curry dishes and Suja (butter tea), milk or tea accompany it. Bhutanese eat this combination of rice and curry with Suja/milk tea for all three meals in a typical local home. On regular days, there will mostly be red rice with a vegetable curry and ezay (chili sauce). On certain occasions, there will be red and white rice with a variety of curry. Zaow (puffed rice) is a snack that Bhutanese eat with their cup of suja on cold mornings.

To purchase Bhutanese red rice, check out Bhutan Natural online store.

Suja (butter tea) and zaw (roasted puff rice)

Ema datshi (chili in cheese sauce), Kewa datshi (potato cheese) and Shamu datshi (mushroom cheese) are some popular curry choices for vegetarians easily available in every restaurant. Datsi maa ngo (deep fried cottage cheese) is a vegetarian’s specialty. Ema datshi is the most famous dish for having chili as a vegetable rather than a spice, that it is called the national dish in jest.


Kewa datshi (potato cheese)

Whether your meat preference is pork or beef, the many Bhutanese meat dishes won’t disappoint you. Shakam Paa is a personal favourite among Bhutanese who love beef. It’s a dried beef dish cooked with red chili, slices of radish or beans and spring onions. For those who enjoy pork, phaksha paa and sikkam paa are divine. Phaksha paa is slices of pork cooked with red chili and radish while sikkam paa is sun dried pork served fried. Sikkam Paa is the most sought after and served on special occasions. Jasha Maru (chicken curry) is major among those who don’t eat pork and beef.

Sikkam datshi (pork with cheese)

Bhutanese cuisines for vegetarians have been limited comparatively. With a boom in the food industry in Bhutan, many restaurants and cafes with western cuisines have found a strong foothold giving vegetarians equal options. Thus, finding a restaurant or a café that serves a good vegetarian meal should be least of your worries if you are travelling to Bhutan.

From using chili as the main vegetable in ema datshi to putting cheese in almost every vegetable curry made, Bhutanese cuisines can be as mystical as the country and if you have a chance to try, you must make it a point to taste them once in your lifetime.

Learn how to cook the popular ema datshi, chilli cheese dish that's loved by many. 

As much as Bhutanese love rice and cheese, the cuisines wouldn’t top the healthiest diet list. ‘A call on the nation to redefine its dietary habits, the key to improved health, which  in turn will help the nation realize its collective aspiration of national happiness as a result of diminishing common health ailments’ a social media campaign called Healthy Drukyul: new leaf, new lease on life is initiated by Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering. 

The social media campaign was launched with its first live post on its social media pages on July 30th 2020 and currently has contents around key messages from the Prime Minister himself, information to sensitize people on healthy diets and stories of change from the public.  

 



Related Posts

Relish Your Taste Buds With 8 Delectable Bhutanese Staple Food

One of the best places to try authentic Bhutanese cuisine is through a homestay, where you will get to sample what most...

Jan 19, 2020 21:08

7 Vegetables You Must Try While Visiting Bhutan

Read Tashi Choden's blog on the vegetables to try if you ever visit Bhutan.

Aug 31, 2019 16:43

How to identify female or male Bhutanese names?

Organizational Psychologist Joyce E. A. Russell observed, “A person’s name is the greatest connection to their own...

Jul 09, 2021 13:19

Where to satisfy your momo cravings in Thimphu, Bhutan

You can't go wrong with momo. It's almost always the answer to a growling stomach and social events.

Jun 28, 2021 11:20

What are some of the Bhutanese beliefs and superstitions

For a country deeply rooted in spirituality, you will find Bhutanese especially the Buddhist rely on astrology for major...

May 25, 2021 11:17

Khata: The multipurpose Bhutanese scarf

“Khatas are the Buddhist equivalent of a hallmark card.” —Married to Bhutan by Linda Leaming

Apr 29, 2021 10:53

Latest

News

What are the endangered birds of Bhutan?

Bhutan is home to 26 endangered birds. One of these birds even has its own festival.

Jul 19, 2021 10:35

Removing Bhutan’s import taxes on sanitary products is crucial for period equity

What might elimination of the 30 percent import tax on sanitary supplies mean for Bhutanese citizens?

Jul 12, 2021 10:48

Features

Biography of Pema Lingpa, Bhutan's famous treasure revealer

Once, he uncovered treasure following instructions from a dream. He would go on to uncover thirty-two treasures during his lifetime.

Aug 02, 2021 10:52

What are the endangered mammals of Bhutan?

Currently, Bhutan is home to nine endangered mammals, with one being critically endangered.

Jul 23, 2021 16:30

Business

What are the entrepreneurship programmes and initiatives available in Bhutan?

The Bhutanese government has introduced all kinds of initiatives to promote entrepreneurship. Even school kids are groomed to innovate,...

Jun 22, 2021 16:37

Support authentic Bhutanese handicrafts by local artisans

Whether you are interested in artisanal Bhutanese handicrafts or boutique sourced products with contemporary touch, the incredible...

Mar 25, 2021 12:09

Sports

Bhutan competed in the Olympics through historic qualification

Since 1984, Bhutan has been competing in the Olympics via universality invitation, but not the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Jul 29, 2021 17:06

What are the traditional sports of Bhutan?

The Bhutanese have a variety of traditional sports. Some test your aim and skills, whereas with others, it’s about pure brute strength.

Jul 13, 2021 11:15

Travel

Travel to Bhutan: experience the charm of Paro district

Paro district receives the highest volume of travellers annually. It's also easily one of tourists favourite places in Bhutan.

Jul 14, 2021 11:20

Travel to Bhutan: attractions in the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu

Western Bhutan is the perfect region to learn more about the beautiful kingdom for those who are visiting Bhutan for the first time.

Jun 29, 2021 12:58

Lifestyle

How to identify female or male Bhutanese names?

Organizational Psychologist Joyce E. A. Russell observed, “A person’s name is the greatest connection to their own identity and...

Jul 09, 2021 13:19

Where to satisfy your momo cravings in Thimphu, Bhutan

You can't go wrong with momo. It's almost always the answer to a growling stomach and social events.

Jun 28, 2021 11:20

COVID-19

Bhutan is leading in the vaccination race

“Bhutan is now a beacon of hope for the region, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has upended lives and devastated families." - Dr Will...

Jul 28, 2021 12:01

Bhutan, with a leading vaccination rate in the region, commenced its second vaccination drive

Bhutan's second nationwide vaccination campaign will be held from July 20 - July 26, 2021.

Jul 21, 2021 11:05

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!