Margarita's International Recipes


Ema Datshi

Chili and Cheese Stew

Ema Datshi, also transliterated as Ima Datshi, is Bhutan's national dish. The fiery concoction of green peppers and cheese is eaten in Bhutan almost daily, often accompanied by Bhutanese red rice. The stew is so fiery that I was afraid of both making it and eating it - one account of a couple of foreigners who ate it in Bhutan has them crying while eating it and feeling its effects until the next morning. They recommend that you coat your tongue with rice before spooning the stew into your mouth.

I'm not a fan of hot cuisine in general (I usually order my curries "medium" and even then I often sweat), so this stew was intimidating. Still, I had to make it, so I decided to do it in such a manner that it would still be edible to me. The solution: seeding the peppers. That worked remarkably well, the stew was still spicy but not terribly so, and you could actually taste it! Indeed, it was pretty good - I particularly liked the sourness of the feta cheese in contrast with the mildness of the rice (I used white rice, never made it to Berkeley to buy the red rice) and the spiciness of the sauce. When you make it, you can, of course, keep the seeds.

Beyond its relative mildness, my stew probably tasted different from the ones made in Bhutan as by necessity I had to use local ingredients. I was never able to figure out what chilies they used in Bhutan. In pictures, they looked large and long, perhaps resembling pasillas, but all recipes called for substituting them with "medium hot chillies", so I used green jalapenos instead. Cleary I can't find Bhutanese yak cheese here, so I used Danish feta, the recommended substitution. I also made the mistake of chopping rather than slicing the onions, though I actually think this probably worked in favor of the stew. Finally, the recipes call for adding 3 cilantro leaves to the stew - I wasn't going to buy a bunch of cilantro for 3 leaves, so I omitted them.

The recipe below is what I made. I don't think I'll make it again, but I will eat the leftovers for lunch today. It should serve 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main dish.

Ema Datshi



Combine chilies, onion and water in pot and add the oil. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic and simmer for 3 more minutes. Add the cheese, mix and simmer for 3 more minutes. Turn off the heat, add the cilantro if using it, cover and let stand for a few more minutes before serving.

Adapted from Tshering Cigay Dorji's recipe at the Bhutanese Food Site and a recipe at Outlook Traveller.

Bhutanese Recipes | Margarita's International Recipes | E-mail