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Bhutan food & drink

Rice, a staple crop for the Bhutanese
The Bhutanese love their chilli peppers Bhutanese bar snacks Weekend market, Thimphu, Bhutan
Above: Rice, a staple crop for the Bhutanese
  • Rice, a staple crop for the Bhutanese
  • The Bhutanese love their chilli peppers
  • Bhutanese bar snacks
  • Weekend market, Thimphu, Bhutan

Food

Good hospitality and service are well understood by the Bhutanese. The food is diverse and restaurants and hotels are able to cater for particular tastes and dietary restrictions with a little notice. All meals are included in our tour prices, unless you opt to eat at a 5-star hotel or chose to eat independently from your guide or the planned itinerary. In larger towns, the restaurant options are varied though do often require advance booking by your guide, so do let them know if you have any particular preferences. Bhutanese, Indian, Chinese and Western options are available widely, usually in a buffet style though a la carte options are also sometimes available.

The Bhutanese enjoy peculiar foods for the region with cheese being a particular favourite: potatoes and cheese, or more testingly, chillies with cheese (emadatshi) are staples!

Chillies themselves are regarded as a vegetable rather than a spice, so approach with care! Chillies are always served on the side, so all palates can be suited.

Mealtimes are mildly flexible, with breakfast served 7-10, lunch 12-2 and dinner 6-10 (approx). Usually your guide will either suggest eating at the hotel at which you are staying or another local restaurant. They will certainly accommodate any requests if possible. Breakfast generally consists of juice, coffee, cereal, toast and eggs, with variations according to where you stay. With the exception of some 5-star hotels, breakfast is included in your tour price.
Lunches are substantial with lots of choice, and evening meals usually consist of 3 courses.

Sample buffet menu:

  •     red rice
  •     potatoes with cheese
  •     vegetable curry or aubergine fritters
  •     sautéed/steamed fern, asparagus, other vegetable
  •     meat curry: beef, pork
  •     fish: curry, marinated,
  •     momos (cheese or meat steamed dumplings)
  •     salad
  •     chilli with cheese

Restaurants in Bhutan are divided into those for tourist use and those for locals, which does ensure you eat well throughout your stay, but can perhaps lead to a feeling of separation (see Drinks section).

A visit to the local market is recommended for those with even a passing interest in food, with Thimphu market being the biggest. Bhutan is a fertile country and grows nearly all its own food. Unusual and unfamiliar fruits, vegetables and herbs are arranged colourfully and enticingly.

Requests for particular local foods can often be accommodated by your hotel. There are few snack foods available other than packets of biscuits or crisps, and street food stalls are not often seen. However, your regular meals are substantial and hearty and should fully suffice for even those with the largest appetite!

Drinks

Black or green tea and biscuits or a fruit juice are often served as a welcome refresher on arrival at your hotel. Coffee is also widely available and is similar to continental coffee. Both soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are usually not included in our set daily rate, and while not cheap, are priced reasonably. Typically a large bottle of beer in a hotel costs around US$1 - precise alcohol content is not clearly stated. Local whisky is both strong and a source of local pride!

Bars are segregated and whilst you may see bars attended by locals, your guide will take you to a tourist bar. The same situation governs which restaurants will be available. This is governed by the ideal of respect and of offering high quality hospitality and clean and appropriate locations for tourists. It would reflect badly on your guide if you were seen to be 'roughing it' in a locals bar.

For more information about Bhutan, please check our Bhutan country guide.

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