Can you guess what is on the chopping block in the picture below ??

Chillies. Of course, the answer must have been quite obvious from the title of post itself. But lets see if you can get the next one..

Can you guess the time of day from the picture above ?

If i didn’t know any better, i would’ve said that it must’ve been either before lunch or in the late afternoon before dinner. But i know that both the answers are wrong.

It is about 8:30am. Breakfast time.

Yes, you heard it right. My friendly host is mincing chillies for breakfast. He is about the prepare the quintessential dish of Bhutan… ‘Ema Dashi‘.  ‘Ema’ is chilli and ‘Dashi’ is cheese. And in its purest form the dish is just that.. Chilly and Cheese with nothing else. And the Bhutanese love it. So much so that the first thing they crave after waking up is a bowl hot chilly along with some steamed buns.

Eating Chillies is a major part of the Bhutanese lifestyle. Some experts would argue that this habit was necessitated by cold weather of the place (to keep warm). While, others may argue that it is due to the limited variety of vegetables that could be grown in the country. But ask any average Bhutanese out in the street and their answer would be as simple as it is true. They just love the taste.

Chillies are a common sight when you travel across Bhutan. Outside most homes you’ll see pods of big red chillies being hung out to dry along with strips of beef and pork.

I’am used to eating spicy food in India, but the Ema Dashi that day was too hot for me to handle. Usually in the restaurants more vegetables are added to the Ema Dashi in order to make it less spicy for the tourists, but they do no such thing in their homes. I found myself frequently reaching for a glass of water.

Ema Dashi aside, there are a few other chilly based dishes that i enjoyed in Bhutan. One of them was Phaksha Pa, dried strips of pork cooked with radish and dried red chillies. And of course the delectable chilly paste that comes along with a serving of piping hot momos. Yum.