These may just be our new favourite way to have scrambled eggs. Chilli peppers, cheese and butter are cooked with eggs to create this indulgent, spicy sensation. Recipe inspired by a combination of the popular Bhutanese dishes, ema datshi and gondo datshi.
Country Number 19: Bhutan
Of all the countries we’ve cooked from so far, Bhutan has one of the most distinct cuisines. We had no idea of what Bhutanese cuisine entailed but were stoked to discover the exciting flavours and ingredients used. Interestingly, Bhutan is one of the few countries that have managed to keep its own specific culture and cuisine throughout history without being heavily influenced by external factors.
History of Bhutanese Cuisine
Bhutan is a land-locked country in southeast Asia, tucked away in the Himalayan mountains between Tibet, China and Nepal. This tiny country is the last standing Buddhist kingdom and has a population of just 750,000. It has also been named the happiest country in the world. After our culinary journey through Bhutan, we think we know why. Almost every Bhutanese meal includes cheese, and cheese is obviously the key to happiness. Another day, another mystery solved.
Although some influence from its neighbours such as China, Tibet and India can be seen in the food eaten in Bhutan, traditional Bhutanese cuisine is very uniquely its own. Throughout its history, Bhutan has never been colonised. This has meant the country has retained a distinct national identity, and congruently, a very distinct cuisine.
Red rice is a staple of the Bhutanese diet, as are buckwheat and maize in certain regions. Being a mountainous country, warm and hearty meals such as stews and soups are very typical. Many of these will include a form of meat, such as chicken, yak, dried beef, pork or lamb. Two of Bhutan’s most typical ingredients are chilli peppers and cheese, and they feature in almost every Bhutanese dish. Cheese is called ‘datshi’ in Bhutanese. You can see just how much this wonderful dairy product is featuring by the amount of traditional dishes with datshi in the name. Bhutanese cuisine is actually very vegetarian-friendly, although with the presence of so much cheese, vegans may have a tougher time. There are plenty of traditional Bhutanese dishes that are naturally vegetarian… Here is a sample of just a few of them:
Popular Bhutanese Vegetarian Dishes
- Ema datshi– Bhutan’s most famous dish. This stew is made of a variety of chillies, cheese, onions and tomatoes, and is generally served with red rice. It really is a staple of the Bhutanese diet
- Samu datshi– Similar to ema datshi, this is another deliciously rich dish consisting of Himalayan mushrooms cooked in a cheesy, buttery stew
- Gondo datshi- The ultimate hearty scrambled eggs dish consisting of eggs cooked in cheese, lots of butter and dried chilli for seasoning.
- Momos– One of the most common street food snacks you’ll find in Bhutan, these dumplings come steamed or deep fried and come with various fillings such as cheese or vegetables. They are consumed with ezay, which is Bhutanese chilli sauce.
- Hoentay- Similar to momos, however these dumplings are made with buckwheat dough wrapper and are usually filled with a combination of spinach or turnip leaves and cheese.
- Goen Hogey– One of the few light and fresh dishes on offer in Bhutan. This salad consists of sliced cucumber, chili flakes, tomato, cilantro, onions and a crumble of datshi cheese.
- Suja– A very unique and popular tea consumed across Bhutan made of from fermented Yak butter and Yak milk.
Vegetarian rating of Bhutanese Cuisine:
Making chilli & cheese scrambled eggs (ema datshi/ gondo datshi)
There are two ingredients that we use very liberally in our household. Cheese and chilli. As we researched into Bhutanese cuisine, we noticed the reoccurring presence of these ingredients. We knew this food was going to be right up our alley. The only problem was choosing which one of Bhutan’s many cheesy dishes to make!
In the end, we couldn’t decide on just one dish. Instead, we decided to combine two: ema datshi and gondo datshi. As mentioned above, ema datshi is a stew consisting of chilli peppers, cheese and onions. Gondo datshi is the Bhutanese version of scrambled eggs, which are cooked in lots of butter, cheese and dried chilli flakes. Both have very similar flavour profiles/ ingredients, so we thought it would be fun to make the gondo datshi (scrambled eggs) and top it with some of the ema datshi.
The result was pretty magnificent. Honestly, this may be our new favourite way to have scrambled eggs. They were so rich and creamy, packed with flavour and spice. What more could you possibly ask for in an egg dish? Safe to say we will definitely be making this dish again. Thank you Bhutan for introducing us to such a wonderful flavour combination!
How to make scrambled eggs with chilli and cheese
These scrambled eggs with chilli and cheese take a little longer to come together than regular scrambled eggs. However, once you taste the dish, you’ll see that it was worth that little bit of extra prep time. Here are the basic steps to make this ema datshi/ gondo datshi combination:
- Make ema datshi by frying vegetables in butter, covering with water and cooking for another 10 minutes, then stirring in cheese.
- Make gondo datshi by sautéing garlic and chilli flakes in butter then adding the eggs and cheese and scrambling for a few minutes.
- Serve gondo datshi topped with ema datshi on bread or with rice.
Ingredient notes for chilli & cheese scrambled eggs
- Cheese- Traditionally, the ‘datshi’ or cheese used in these dishes is a special Bhutanese cheese made of yak, cow or goat milk. It is a soft cheese that has a similar texture to ricotta or cottage cheese. As we obviously couldn’t get hold of such a cheese variety, we substituted for two of our go-to cheeses- feta and aged cheddar. You could use a milder cheese such a ricotta, however we opted to use cheese with a more punchy flavour.
- Chillies– Bhutanese dishes use a wide variety of chillies in different colours, shapes and sizes. For this recipe, use whichever variety of chillies your heart burns for (and however many your spice tolerance can handle).We used a combination of green chillies and dried red chilli for ours.
Serving suggestions for the scrambled eggs
Tradtionally in Bhutan, both ema datshi and gondo datshi would be served with a bowl of red rice. Given we were already making an unconventional rendition of these dishes, we also served it a little differently. We topped the gondo datshi (scrambled eggs) with ema datshi (chilli and cheese sauce) and served it up on homemade sourdough bread. We’re not going to lie, it tasted pretty incredible. However, feel free to serve this unique scrambled egg dish however you please.
Other fun lunch recipes to try:
- Mushroom-stuffed Potato Cakes (Draniki)
- Savory Stuffed Crepes (Mahjouba)
- Vegetarian Sausage Rolls with Mushrooms & Lentils
Chilli Cheese Scrambled Eggs (Ema Datshi/ Gondo Datshi)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/2 onion (sliced)
- 1 to mato (sliced)
- 8 chilli peppers (slit down the middle)
- 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
- Salt & pepper (to taste)
- 1 cup water (or
- 100 g cheese ((we used half feta, half cheddar cheese))
- 2 tbsp butter
- 3 cloves of garlic (sliced)
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 6 eggs (beaten)
- Salt & pepper (to taste)
- 100 g feta cheese
Make the ema datshi:
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add sliced onion, tomato, chillies and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for a few minutes.
- Add in 1 cup of water. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until chillies are tender.
- Turn off heat and pour in cheese and allow to melt.
Make the gondo datshi:
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in another pan over medium heat. Add in slices of garlic and chilli flakes and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Tip beaten eggs into the pan along and sprinkle in feta. Season with salt and pepper.
- Gently move eggs around the pan for a few minutes to scramble.
- Take off heat and top with the ema datshi, serving on nice thick slabs of bread or with rice.
Did you make this recipe? We’d love to know! Tell us how it went in the comments below or tag us (@gourmetvegetarians) in your photos on Instagram.
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