Bhutan- The Kingdom of Peppers
Bhutan is a country with the highest per-capita consumption of chilli.
One of the reasons why Bhutan is unique from the rest of the world is also because of its simple yet healthy culinary and gastronomy lifestyle. If you are traveling to Bhutan to binge on all the fast-food franchised restaurants and cafes, you have chosen the wrong place. Rather Bhutan offers her visitors homely and healthy food. In rural regions, families gather around the fire and watch mothers cook meals for the family later on followed by serving food to the eldest member of the family first.
Talking of the food one of the distinctive qualities of Bhutanese curry is its ‘hotness’. Bhutanese don’t use chilies as species but they eat them like a vegetable. Several varieties/variants are being grown and used, at least partly stemming from different parts of the country, and “chili is omnipresent in the Bhutanese kitchen.” On average, a household consumes more than 1 kilo of chili in a week.
'Ema Datsi' is the most popular curry. Ema is just the Bhutanese word for chili, so the “Ema” above is not a distinct name, it just labels that chili as chillI, Ema Datsi its curry is made of chilies and cheese. Several culinary Bhutanese dishes have chilies in them in some form or the other. In several Bhutanese homes and restaurants, it is customary to serve ‘ezay’ Bhutanese version of Chilli sauce/ pickle ’ as an accompaniment to the main course
Kind of Chilies in Bhutan
Today, there are more than 400 different varieties of chilies found all over the world. Some of the ‘hottest’ chilies are grown in Asia including the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. The “hotness" of chili is due to a component present in it called capsaicin. Unlike what most people believe, it’s not the chili seeds or flakes that make it spicy. Rather, it’s the inner membrane inside the chili that contributes to the pungency.
Since chili is the main ingredient in almost all the curries, Bhutanese has learned to preserve seasonal chillis for all seasons. Bhutanese farmers in the western part of Bhutan sundry or smoke-dry chillis. A kilo of sun-dried chili can cost more than Nu 1500/-, it is considered the best delicacies from the west.
Most spicy chili in Bhutan
Dalle Khursani known as the fireball is one of the hottest chilies in the world. 1-2 of these blazing red balls are enough to set your mouth on fire. Living up to its name and fame, the chili is super-hot and is not for the faint-hearted. When fully ripen, this bright red-round-cherry-sized ball spices up all the taste buds it comes into contact with. If you are looking for some firework in your mouth, then Dalle Khursani is your go-to chilly.
Besides its addictive taste, Dalley Chili is known for its medical properties. With its unique taste, many Bhutanese folks have found love in this fiercest chili. Local vendors from Tsirang and Wangdue district are some of the main suppliers of Dalley Pickle. The fermented pickle is supplied to the rest of the districts and some are exported beyond Bhutan also.
Aside from the use of Chillis on the platter , Bhutan is also a place reported to use burning chili pepper to drive away evil spirits. There is another story of mountains, cold winters, hot and humid summers, and the power of chilli to help to stay warm.