bhutanese chilli & cheese stew

chilli cheese

ema datshi (chill cheese in Bhutanese)

I can’t seem to get enough of chillies and have bought more this weekend; this time green chillies from the supermarket. I normally like to avoid supermarkets all together but for this recipe I need some processed cheese. Chilli and cheese may not strike as an obvious marriage of flavours but the combination works. The flavour of the chillies are enhanced by the creaminess of the cheese and the distinct taste of butter coming through.

A couple of years ago, Christopher and I were fortunate enough to travel through Bhutan. Flying into Paro, we meandered across to the east over the course of 3 weeks, leaving via Samdrup Jongkhar and into the flat plains of Assam, India. Bhutan is truly a magical kingdom. We tried to capture the sublime beauty of the landscape and the gentle, hospitable people we met.

The Bhutanese eat chillies as a vegetable. Perhaps they start at a young age, building up tolerance. During our trek I was astounded to find our cook and guide eating raw green chillies, raw sliced onions with red rice for breakfast. It is not surprising then that chilli and cheese stew is a national dish. It is eaten with most meals, sometimes tomatoes or other vegetables are added. Mainly green chillies are used but we did taste some spectacularly fiery white chillies, slightly smoky aroma, on the way up to the Tiger’s nest in Paro.

I’m following a recipe I found on youtube.


1 garlic, diced
½ small onion, diced
a generous knob of butter
5 green chillies
50g cream cheese (3 triangles of laughing cow)
100 ml water
pinch of salt

Melt butter in a saucepan. Add onion and garlic, sauté for 5-10 minutes until softened, without catching colour. Add the chillies, cheese and water. Stir and bring to the boil.

Cover with a lid and simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave for a further 2 minutes. Season with salt and serve with plenty of red rice.

Christopher and I both love chillies but these green ones from the supermarket are proving to be a challenge to get through. I pop the left overs into a blender and whiz until a coarse consistency. It makes an excellent chilli and cheese dip with some corn chips and cold beer.

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  1. SF on December 22, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    I am not a great fan of cheese but I have to say the dip was excellent. I’m going to make it again for New Year’s Eve party. Thanks Cho.

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  3. sid on March 21, 2010 at 5:20 am

    we had this a lot when our bhutanese blueberry pickers (uni students on break) stayed with us for the harvest season…and kewa datshi(with added potatoes).
    The meal was really nice….it was eaten for breakfast on most days..