Review: From authentic Ema Datshi, Jasha Maru to Buttered Zaw, Vintage Asia's Bhutanese Food Festival is excellent
Very few palates are as richly textured and yet so comforting like the Bhutanese cuisine; this particular section of North Eastern cookery depends a lot on the natural climate and available produce. So, unpolished red rice, cheese, chilli, mushrooms are recurring in every other dish. And lucky for us, we love all of it and got to sample an excellent spread curated by Chef Cheten Tshering at the Bhutanese Food Festival at JW Marriott Hotel's Asian diner Vintage Asia.
Bhutanese cuisine has borrowed from Indian, Tibetian and Chinese influences which is why it's very suited to our desi taste buds. The reason we reach for a bowl of udon over some red rice is that Bhutanese numbers are really hard to find in the city, which is why we suggest you make the most of this scrumptious well-timed festival and pick up a recipe or two.
Bhutanese food relies a lot on seasonal Himalayan bounties and animal protein, so the culture of sustainable eating has always been a part of Bhutan's culture. Moreover, a large section of locals in the country are vegetarians, so hearty green meals and gorgeous salads also dominate the cuisine. Goen Hogey, for instance, is a really interesting spiced salad made with cucumbers, cilantro, datshi cheese, and chilli, which is a winning medley.
We had to taste some red rice - the partially-milled form of rice is famous for its earthy, slightly nutty aftertaste; the rice also goes exceptionally well with curries. We paired our first serving with some Jasha Maru, which is a traditional spiced stew featuring diced chicken, chilli, garlic, onions and had a rustic, gingery base.
The Shakam Datshi’s reputation precedes it and we’d obviously been waiting for it to be served; the wholesome entree is one of the best things to have emerged from Eastern Himalayan cuisine. Traditionally made with yak cheese, the stew features beef and is made in a mellow seasoned sauce, which is powerful in aroma. We paired it with some delicious noodles and a fiery eggplant entree.
The Phakshaa Pa is again, a winner; the slow-cooked pork number features diced, juicy meats; it has a really smooth, even consistency and it’s utterly bingeable. If you're dropping by at the festival do not forget to try the buckwheat dumplings, which is a delicious Bhutanese specialty. The festival is a great fit for veggie lovers, considering its incredible focus on vegetarian selections, specifically the Ema Datshi and the appetising kakur jaju.
Chef Tschering’s team has gone the extra mile on the dessert front; the good ol’ Red Rice Kheer is unmissable, and a must-have option from the menu. The Buttered Zaw with Pumpkin’ and Bumthang Honey Ice Cream and the Khabsey with Zaw Pudding have a global touch when it comes to the spectacle. Our recommendations from the menu? Definitely, the Shakam Datshi and Bhutanese Red Rice, along with the Kakur Jaju. Price for two: Rs 2,200