Lisa Napoli, author of Radio Shangri-La, Shares Recipe for Bhutanese Emadatse

In Bhutan, emadatse is a bit like red sauce is around my Italian side of the family. Everyone has their own slightly different ‘secret,’ and everyone thinks theirs the best!

Bhutanese consider red hot chili peppers to be a vegetable, not a spice; they’re nutrient rich and warm the insides – essential ingredients for food in the Himalayas.

All over Bhutan you can see them drying in the sun, on ledges, roofs, any surface that will hold a family’s necessary capacity for their weekly intake. Emadatse’s eaten three times a day in Bhutan – breakfast, lunch and dinner – and some people feel a meal isn’t complete without it!

This recipe comes from my friend Karma Dem of Good Karma Catering, who grew up in the Haa district of Bhutan. Try it only if you dare!

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Feeds one Bhutanese or five non-spice fans

Chillies – about 10 pieces
(serano, jalpeno, bell peppers – these all can be used depending on the level of hotness one wants to have)
Cheese – 1 cup, monteray jack shredded
(some like it cheesier so you can add half cup or more depending on how cheesey you want it to be)
Olive oil or butter – 2 tablespoons of olive oil or half stick of butter
(butter helps to tone down some of the spiciness of the chillies)
Salt to taste

Optional additions to absorb the heat and Americanize this (Americanized by Lisa). NOTE: Traditional emadatse is just the chillies and cheese.

Potatoes – 5 small
(very thinly sliced – makes this recipe kewa-datse)
Mushrooms – 10 of any kind
(chanterelles are common in the summer around Bhutan but are pricey here) (makes it shamu-datse)
Onion – 1 medium, juliened
Tomatoes – 2 medium, chopped in bite size pieces
Garlic – 3 pieces
(not the whole clove – it would make it too garlicky!)

Warm the oil or butter.
Turn heat down to low.
Chop the chillies, add the grated cheese, and salt (and optional additional items if you desire).
Stir for ten to fifteen minutes, depending on how “al dente” you like veggies.
Serve over heaping plates of white or pink Bhutanese rice.

Sake or Soju is as close as you’ll get to Bhutanese rice wine, ara, or have a beer to cut the heat!

radio-shangi-la-coverDownload an excerpt of Lisa Napoli’s memoir Radio Shangri-La

Enjoy many more videos of Lisa in Bhutan on the Radio Shangri-La YouTube Channel

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Watch Read It Forward Editor Kira Walton’s Video Review of Lisa Napoli’s Radio Shangri-La

About Kira Walton

KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor.

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