Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ema Datchi : Bhutan's National Dish

One of my favorite things about my two trips to Bhutan was the abundance of Ema Datchi, or chilies in cheese, the creamy, spicy national dish of the country. It varied from region to region in spiciness and some having added tomatoes or extra garlic. Several local cooks told me the method for making the dish but finding the proper cheese in Hawaii was a challenge. A mild farmer’s cheese, sometimes yak, sometimes cow, is what they told me but none of the cheeses I tried at home worked. On line searches showed recipes with Danish feta but it did not melt to the desired creaminess nor did it taste quite right. But finally I found the answer. Laughing Cow. After reading the label I realized that the ingredients are not as bad as one might suppose for a processed cheese. The great thing about it is that it melts beautifully and the final product tastes just like Bhutanese Ema Datchi. Served over Bhutanese red rice it is just the thing to bring me back to the tiny Himalayan country that I love.


½ lb. jalapeno chilies, sliced lengthwise into strips and seeded (I use a variety of chilies in order to vary the heat. Poblano, Anaheim, Serrano, etc.)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 ¾ cups water
2 tbsp. oil
3-5 cloves garlic chopped
1 tomato, diced
6 wedges Laughing Cow original cheese (there are 8 in a package)


Combine chilies, onion and water in pot and add oil. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes or until chilies are getting tender. Add tomatoes and garlic and simmer another 10 minutes. Add cheese to mixture stirring until smooth, simmering for another 3 minutes. I kind of mash the cheese with a fork to break it up. Serve over Lotus Foods Bhutanese red rice.

Article and photo by Marie DeJournette

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