Chillies and cheese
Bhutan is a country that loves its Chillies. Indeed, the average family in this small landlocked country between India and China eats more than a kilogram of Chillies per week. Just about every dish they prepare has Chillies of some form or the other in it. Because Chillies in Bhutan are seen more as a vegetable than a spice, the typical type of Chilli used in this cooking is not exceptionally hot. They fall into a mild to medium heat range. These include Chillies like the Sha Ema, Baegop Ema, Ema Mapa, Super Solu, Yangtsepa Ema and the Urka Bangla Chilli
But that is not to say that the Chillies they eat are not hot. One of the hottest The Dalle Khursani or Jyanmaara Khursani carries two names for good reason. It has the name of Dalle Khursani (which translates to round ball) because this describes the shape of these Chillies. The Chillies second name of Jyanmaara Khursani translates to “Lifetaker” Chillies. It carries this name because it is extremely hot, with a Scoville rating of 100000 to 350000 Shu
While Bhutan has many dishes that contain Chillies, Ema Datchi (Bhutan’s national dish), is a Chilli stew made with cheese and Chillies. Ema means Chilli, and the Datshi part of the name refers to the type of cheese used to make the dish. Datshi is a type of cheese made using female yak or cow’s milk. The cheese is similar in appearance to ricotta, and its flavour is somewhere between feta and Gruyere cheese
Bhutan’s national dish intrigues me so much that I have decided to make it. Of course, it is unlikely that I will find the exact Chillies they use in Bhutan or Datshi cheese to make this dish, so I will have to make substitutions. However, I am relatively sure I will get close. It is certainly worth a bash
Let’s make Ema Datshi.
Half a kilo of Chillies
To make Bhutan’s national dish, I needed 500 grams of Chillies. The Chillies I used were a combination of Jalapenos, Cayenne, and Birds eye Chillies. In Bhutan, they use medium strength Chillies to make the dish, so I (with the exception of the Birdseyes) I followed suite. For the cheese, I used one hundred grams of Feta cheese and one hundred and fifty grams of Cheddar cheese. I also needed one onion, three chopped tomatoes, two cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of butter, and about half a cup of milk.
Before I started making the Ema Datchi, I needed to do some pre-preparation. This entailed peeling and slicing the onion, chopping the tomatoes, peeling, and finely chopping the garlic. I prepped the Chillies by cutting off the stalks, cutting the Chillies in half, and remaining the seeds and piths. Not doing this would have meant the Ema Datchi would have been far too hot.
With the prep done, I could start cooking. The first thing I did was add the butter to a skillet. I heated the butter at a medium heat until it melted and started to foam. Next, I added the onion and sauteed it until it was starting to turn translucent. Once that had happened, I added the garlic and sautéed it for a minute or two. I then added the Chillies and tomatoes and stirred until all the ingredients were well combined. The next step was to turn down the heat on the stove and cover the skillet with a lid. After about ten minutes, the juices from the Chillies and tomatoes were starting to become soft and the juices from these ingredients had started to form a sauce. I then added the cheeses and waited until they were starting to melt. The final step was to add the milk and stir everything until all the ingredients were well combined.
And that was it. The Ema dashi had been made. We had it on its own out of bowls without rice. In Bhutan, the dish is traditionally served with rice. It can also be served with warm crusty bread that can be used to mop up the sauce once the Chillies have been eaten.
So how was it?
It is easy to understand why this dish is Bhutans national dish . It was spicy, rich and full of flavour. It is comfort food of the highest order. It is the type of food you would top serve on a cold winter’s night with good friends as company. It comes highly recommended