Bhutan’s National Dish
Chili and cheese is a combination we’re all familiar with, whether it’s via the Americana chili beans topped with shredded cheese or meat spiced with chili powder and topped with cheese on a taco. I’d like to introduce you to Ema Datshi, which literally translates to ‘chili’ and ‘cheese’ in the Dzongkha language of Bhutan.. While similar in concept (balancing heat with cheese), these dishes are literally a world apart.
My husband and I experienced the joy and beauty of Bhutanese culture in November of 2017, and just like the inspiration, peace and love the people bestowed upon me and I carry in my heart to this day, this dish, Ema Datshi also remains. Chilies aren’t just a popular food in Bhutan, they define the food culture of the country — so much so that children are introduced to the spicy peppers as infants. Chili peppers are part of breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Ema Datshi is served along with every meal.
Cooking Ema Datshi at Home
Cooking Bhutanese cuisine in your own kitchen may seem a bit daunting, but the beauty of this dish is its simplicity. The Fresh 20 is all about making cooking fun, exciting and an adventure — but not overwhelming. Even a novice chef can experience the world through cooking.
Ema datshi can be enjoyed along any spice level on the spectrum, depending on your preference for heat. If you’re going medium to hot, I suggest wearing latex gloves while you prep your chilies, as the heat can linger on your fingers for up to 24 hours, and you want to avoid rubbing your eyes or nose.
Mild: If you like it mild, try green peppers like Anaheims or poblanos, and reds like cherry and bell. You can also add diced boiled potatoes into the dish, which is called kewa datshi.
Medium: When you’re looking for a bit of warmth and spice, use green peppers like Anaheims or poblanos, and add 2 red Fresno chilies.
Hot: If you like it hot, go all out with 6 jalapenos and 2 fresno or thai chilies.
Simple Ema Datshi Recipe
This creamy Bhutanese stew of chilies and cheese will take you on a culinary adventure. Serve over rice and lentils.
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A creamy and spicy Bhunatanese stew of cheese, peppers, onions and tomatoes.
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 6 green chilies, seeds removed and sliced
- 2 red chilies, seeds removed and sliced
- 1 medium red onion, lengthwise
- 2 roma tomatoes, cut into eighths lengthwise
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup water
- 8 ounces feta cheese
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- Heat olive oil in a wok on high.
- Throw in chiles, onion, tomatoes and garlic.
- Sauté for 3-4 minutes.
- Pour in 1 cup water and combine.
- Mix in feta and butter.
- Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add tomato and garlic and simmer 2 more minutes
- Add cheese until blended but not completely melted.
Serve over rice and lentils.