Paro Restaurants & Must-Try Foods in Bhutan
Are you traveling to Paro, Bhutan? Don’t go without this Bhutan food guide! If you want to know about traditional Bhutanese cuisine, the must-try foods in Bhutan, the Bhutan national dish, and the Paro restaurants and foodie experiences not to miss, then save this Bhutanese food guide!
Bhutan, also known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is a Himalayan kingdom sharing borders with India, China, and Nepal.
Apart from its scenic sights, the unique Bhutanese cuisine is something everyone should try on their trip to Bhutan.
And Paro, one of the major cities in Bhutan, is one of the best places to enjoy the famous food of Bhutan. Plus, at an elevation of 7200 feet above sea level, Paro has one of the most wonderful climatic conditions for traveling.
Bhutanese Cuisine & Bhutan Food Culture
Bhutan cuisine is most similar to Tibetan, Nepalese, and Indian cuisines. Most authentic Bhutanese dishes are high on spice and are sure to bring a tear or two in your eye!
A with many Asian cuisines, rice is considered to be the staple food of the Bhutanese, as it is cultivated throughout the country. You can find beautiful paddy fields across Punakha, especially on your trek towards the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten.
Apart from rice, the Bhutanese also indulge in eating various meaty dishes prepared with pork, beef, and chicken. Chilies, turnips, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, and onions are the main vegetables consumed here and are part of most popular Bhutanese dishes.
Bhutan Food Culture
Bhutan is famous for being one of the most environmentally friendly and carbon neutral countries in the world. Bhutan foods follow strict organic farming regulations to the point where if you pick an apple from a tree, you can go ahead and take a bite without worries!
Therefore, there are many organic restaurants in Bhutan. Most restaurants in Paro serve authentic Bhutanese food along with Indian and Chinese dishes. However, you’ll find cafes and bristos serving western style foods like pizza, burgers, cakes and breads as well.
Must-Try Foods in Bhutan
1. Ema Datshi: Bhutan National Dish
The national dish of Bhutan, Ema datshi, is a common meal in every Bhutanese household. This dish is made mainly using chillies and cheese, and is eaten with rice. Some variations of the dish are also prepared by replacing chilies with potatoes (Kewa datshi) or mushrooms (Shamu datshi). It is the perfect dish to try if you love spicy foods. It is often eaten with red rice and flat breads.
2. Shakam Paa: Staple Food of Bhutan
This delicious dish is made with dried preserved beef slices, chilies and cheese. This dish is part of the staple diet of the Bhutanese. Preserving meat for the winters is a common practice among the people of Bhutan, since most high altitude parts of Bhutan receive harsh winters when it is difficult to venture outside.
3. Jasha Maru: Famous Food of Bhutan
Jasha maru is a delicious Bhutanese chicken stew prepared with chicken, tomatoes, onions and ginger. The burst of flavors from this simple curry is to die for, and it is one dish everyone must try when in Bhutan. Jasha maru is often paired with white or red rice.
4. Khatem: Bhutanese Breakfast
Khatem are crispy slices of Bitter Gourd fried in butter and seasoned with a few spices. It is a great choice for breakfast and also can be eaten as a snack. It is a highly nutritious and delicious snack which can be combined with tea or any meal as a side dish.
5. Momos: Bhutan Street Food
Though originating from Tibet, Momos are one of the most loved street foods in Bhutan. If you travel to India, you’ll find they are a beloved Indian street food as well. These dumplings are served with a spicy chili sauce called 'ezay' and some 'thingye', which are local Sichuan peppers. Bhutanese momos are usually prepared with beef or chicken, and the vegetarian options include cabbage and carrots. They are often served straight out of the steamer and are a delicious and filling snack to try. You can also try dumplings called the 'Hoentay' mostly made from buckwheat (fried or steamed).
6. Khur-le: Traditional Buhutanese Food
Khur-le is a traditional bhutanese pancake prepared with wheat or barley flour. This is best eaten with ema datshi, chili sauce and eggs. These spongy pancakes are the perfect choice for the cold weather and make a filling meal.
7. Suja: Bhutanese Butter Tea
Suja is the Bhutanese Butter Tea made by boiling tea leaves with water and yak butter. Unlike the traditional tea, Suja is prepared with salt and not sugar. Most people in Bhutan kick start their day with a cup of Suja and its unique flavor is something to try! Suja is available in most Paro restaurants throughout the day and it tastes more soupy than like tea.
8. Jaju: Vegetarian Bhutan Food
Jaju is a Bhutanese vegetable soup made of milk, butter and spinach or any other leafy vegetable. Though simple in taste, Jaju is quite filling and perfect for the cold weather. Jaju prepared with turnip leaves is mostly prepared during special occasions. It can be extremely hard to find when turnip leaves are scarce.
9. Tshampa: Healthy Snack Food in Bhutan
Tshampa is usually prepared with wheat or barley flour. It can be prepared as small sweet balls or can be eaten with stews like Ema datshi. Tshampa originates from Tibetan cuisine and is considered to be a healthy and nutritious snack.
10. Red Rice: Most Common Food of Bhutan
Red rice is a variety of rice cultivated across Bhutan. This rice acquires a red color after boiling and is often sticky in texture. It is popularly eaten with most curry dishes like Ema datshi and Jasha Maroo.
11. Puta: Spicy Bhutanese Cuisine
Puta is noodles prepared from buckwheat. It is often cooked with chillies, onion, salt and pepper. It is favorite among the Bhutanese and is eaten as lunch or dinner during special occasions. Puta can be made by boiling or stir-frying with oil.
Alcohol in Paro: Ara & Druk Beer
Alcoholic drinks are served in most restaurants in Paro. The local alcoholic beverage called 'Ara' made by fermenting rice, maize and barley with homemade yeast. They have a strong flavor and are a common drink in Bhutan. Ara is often served with rice and egg as side dishes.
They also produce their own beer under the Druk brand. Druk beer has a strong flavor of fermented malt. You can try some Red rice Lager and Milk stout at the Namgay Artisanal Brewery at Paro. Dumsibu, Paro 11001 Bhutan. They have a great ambience and also host live music sessions on weekends.
Paro Restaurants & Food Experiences Not To Miss
1. Paro Taktsang Cafeteria
The hike to Tigers Nest Monastery or Paro Taktsang is the most popular tourist activity in Paro. The monastery is also one of the most important sites of pilgrimage in Bhutan. The Taktsang cafeteria is located at the halfway point to the summit. Though most things on the menu are priced double the normal rates, the experience of having a cup of tea with a view of the Taktsang is priceless. It is also considered as the most instagrammable place in Paro.
Once you finish your hike, you are received with a hot cup of tea and puffed rice at the entrance of the temple. Most Bhutanese people put these rice flakes into the tea and consume it together. This is quite relaxing and energizing after the long hike.
2. Tea and Noodles at Chelela Pass
The Chelela pass is the highest motorable point in Bhutan at an elevation close to 14000 feet above sea level. The best time to visit is during October, when the weather is extremely cool and windy. Though there are no proper cafes here, a small food stand serves piping hot tea and hot bowls of Maggie noodles. The stand is always crowded with tourists and you will have to wait for your turn. But this is definitely worth the wait.
3. Nightlife in Paro
There are various pubs in Paro which are the perfect spots to chill out with your friends. From crafted beer to delicious snacks and live music these pubs are a must visit during your Paro stay. Some of the famous pubs in Paro are Club K, Millenium Club, Park 76 Cafe & Pub and Uma Paro Bar.
4. Popular Paro Restaurants
Paro restaurants often keep very simple menus and payments are done mostly by cash.
The streets of Paro are lined with many souvenir shops and restaurants alike. There is a main shopping street near the Paro dzong which is often crowded with tourists. You can find some good Butanese restaurants behind this street.
Most buildings are built in the traditional Bhutanese style of architecture with a lot of wood work. You can see similar wood works and arrangements inside most of the restaurants in Paro.
Popular restaurants in Paro, Buhutan:
Mountain Cafe—Organic fast-food in Paro. Paro Town, Paro 12001
Champaca Cafe—Butanese specialties, pastries, and coffee. Old main street Paro, 12001
Coffee Point—Beautiful cakes and coffee of the Himalayas. Satsam Chorten, Paro 12001
Park 76 Cafe & Pub—Burgers and pub fare at this Paro restaurant near Children's Park, Paro 00975
Soechey Restaurant—Fusion of Indian and Butanese cuisine. Town square, Paro 12001
Final Thoughts on Bhutanese Food in Paro
Paro is a great place to explore if you enjoy adventure, nightlife, and authentic Bhutan food. You can try out a variety of traditional Bhutanese dishes most of which include chili and meat. Most dishes are prepared with locally cultivated vegetables and simple ingredients. The hot and spicy nature of the food may be due to the cold weather the country experiences.
About the Author:
I am Athul from Our Backpack Tales, a blog focusing on budget travel. I love traveling to less explored places with my wife Neethu, and we always travel light with our trusty backpack. We are pet-lovers and foodies and dream of living in the mountains one day.