Dechenling: Where bliss meets chillies

Dubby Bhagat


In the early 70’s, at the coronation of King Jigme Singhe Wangchuk of Bhutan, exotic foods were presented in regal style. The British Ambassador accredited to the Himalayan Kingdom went for a chilli and cheese specialty, found it hot, downed several glasses of champagne to cool off, saw double and at an archery contest winged a Bhutanese onlooker. The incident was treated with Bhutanese lightness and all was right with world. At Dechenling which means garden of bliss we worked our way up to the chilli and cheese dish so we would not cause diplomatic incidents in the beautiful garden with the artistic climbing wall or the room with the beautiful cloud patterns on the wall. The knowledgeable Purnima Manandhar who is as efficient as she is cheerful, brought on the Gyuma which is a Tibetan sausage flavored with salt and white pepper. ‘’We don’t use any other spices,’’ said Purnima. The Lowa which is an appetiser made from lung was described by Bhutanese traveler John Child as tasting like, “The softness veal you’ve ever had. The thin slices have an eggplant taste that has garlic hitting your palate first and then come the chilies.” Stan Armington who wrote the best selling Bhutan guide said, “Traditional Bhutanese food always features spicy red or green chilies.” We soothed our mouths with the barley soup made of ground, roasted Tsampa in a chicken and spinach broth which has an unusual taste and warming qualities. Barley is typically served in cold places to help remove the chill. In the 17th century England made barley sugar sweets for cold days.

Says Stan Armington, “The national dish of Bhutan is Ema Datse which comprises large green (very hot) chilies prepared as a vegetable, not as a seasoning, in a cheese sauce.” According to Stan Armington, “The secondmost popular dish is the Phak Sha Laphu simply called Pak which is stewed meat with radish and chilies.” Purnima and Rabin Balami served us the red rice which is eaten plain as well as with the curries. It is an instant risotto that does not beg additions. Bhutanese and Tibetan food can be addictive like the Sha Tema Chentse which is a meat, peas and celery curry with the celery sounding the high note and going to the softness of the chicken to the firmness of the peas. There should be an announcement on Druk Air flights to prevent food smuggling since there is a place in Kathmandu that is forever Bhutan — Dechenling where bliss is a part of the menu. The phone number is 4412158.