Easy Ema Datshi Recipe: Authentic Bhutanese Chili Cheese Delight

We’re diving into the heart of Bhutanese cuisine today with a dish that’s as simple as it is fiery: ema datshi. This beloved recipe is a staple in every Bhutanese home, and once you’ve tried it, you’ll understand why. Ema datshi, translating to “chili and cheese,” combines the heat of green chilies with the creamy texture of local cheese, creating a dish that’s both comforting and exhilarating.

What makes ema datshi truly special is its simplicity and the depth of flavor it achieves with minimal ingredients. It’s a testament to the Bhutanese love for chilies, elevating them from a mere condiment to the star of the meal. Whether you’re a spice aficionado or just looking to explore international cuisines, ema datshi is a dish that promises to transport your taste buds straight to the heart of Bhutan.

Join us as we share our take on this fiery, cheesy delight. It’s easier to make than you might think, and it’s the perfect introduction to the rich culinary traditions of Bhutan.


Now that we’ve sparked your curiosity about the fiery and beloved dish of Bhutan, Ema Datshi, let’s gather the ingredients needed to bring this culinary delight into your kitchen.

For the Ema Datshi

  • 10-12 fresh green chilies, sliced lengthwise (seeds optional, depending on your heat preference)
  • 2 medium-sized onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup of Bhutanese cheese (or a substitute like Feta or Farmer’s cheese if Bhutanese cheese is not available)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of oil (any neutral oil like vegetable or canola will do)
  • 1 cup of water (adjust for desired consistency)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder (for color and a mild earthy flavor)
  • A handful of chopped cilantro (for garnish and a fresh flavor kick)
  • 1 small piece of ginger, minced (for additional spice and warmth)

Required Equipment

After exploring the vibrant flavors that compose the heartwarming dish of ema datshi, and walking through the array of ingredients needed to create this Bhutanese culinary masterpiece, it’s time to gather the essential equipment to bring this recipe to life. To ensure a smooth cooking experience, it’s crucial to have all the necessary tools at our disposal. Here’s what we’ll need:

  • Medium Saucepan: The central piece of equipment where all the ingredients will beautifully come together. Preferably with a heavy bottom to ensure even heat distribution and prevent burning.
  • Knife: A sharp knife is indispensable for finely chopping the onions, tomatoes, garlic, and ginger. Precision in cutting these ingredients enhances the dish’s overall texture and flavor.
  • Cutting Board: For a safe and efficient chopping experience. A sturdy board will make it easier to prepare the ingredients.
  • Stirring Spoon: To combine the ingredients well and ensure they cook evenly. A wooden or heat-resistant spoon is recommended.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: Accuracy matters in cooking, and ema datshi is no different. Use these to measure water, oil, and spices correctly.
  • Cheese Grater: If you’re using a substitute for Bhutanese cheese, such as feta or farmer’s cheese, grating it will allow for better melting and integration with the other ingredients.

Having these items ready before you begin cooking not only facilitates a smoother process but also enhances your enjoyment of the culinary journey. Now, with everything in place, let’s step forward into the heart of Bhutanese cuisine and start cooking ema datshi, savoring the journey as much as the destination.

Preparation Steps

Now that we have all our ingredients and equipment ready, let’s dive into the heart of making ema datshi. Following these steps will transform the raw ingredients into a savory, spicy, and utterly delightful Bhutanese dish that’s sure to impress.

Cutting the Cheese

Start by cubing the Bhutanese cheese or its substitute. If you’re using a firmer cheese like Feta or Farmer’s cheese, aim for bite-size pieces, about half an inch thick. For softer cheeses, crumble them into rough, chunky pieces. This ensures that the cheese will melt evenly into the sauce, creating that creamy texture ema datshi is known for.

Prepping the Chillies

The chilies are the soul of the dish, so handle them with care. If you prefer a milder heat, remove the seeds and membranes. For those who love an extra kick, keeping some or all of the seeds increases the spice level. Slice the chilies into quarter-inch strips. Remember, washing your hands thoroughly after handling chilies is crucial to avoid any accidental burning sensations later on.

Other Prep Work

Chop the onions and tomatoes into similar-sized pieces to ensure even cooking. Finely mince the garlic and ginger – these will be sautéed to form the base flavor of the dish. Roughly chop the cilantro, which will be added towards the end to bring freshness and a burst of color. This prep work lays the foundation for a harmonious blend of flavors and textures in our ema datshi.

Cooking the Ema Datshi

Now that we’ve prepped our ingredients, let’s dive into the heart of making ema datshi. This authentic Bhutanese dish promises a spicy, cheesy adventure that tantalizes the taste buds and warms the soul.

Initial Steps

First, grab a medium-sized pot or a deep frying pan – something that gives the ingredients room to mingle. Place it on the stove and pour in about 2 cups of water. Turn the heat to medium and let the water warm up but not boil. It’s essential to start with lukewarm water to ensure even cooking of the chilies and to prevent the cheese from becoming too hard if added to boiling water directly.

Next, meticulously slice your prepped chilies lengthwise, leaving the seeds in if you’re a fan of heat or removing them for a milder taste. Add these sliced chilies to the lukewarm water. Let them simmer for about 8-10 minutes. This step allows the chilies to soften slightly and start releasing their distinctive flavor into the water, setting the base for our ema datshi.

Adding Ingredients

After the chilies have had their time to simmer, it’s time to introduce the onions and tomatoes. Add the sliced onions and diced tomatoes into the pot. These should cook until they’re soft – roughly about 5 minutes. The onions will start to turn translucent, and the tomatoes will begin to break down, thickening the mixture slightly and enriching it with a savory sweetness.

The star of the dish – the cheese. Lower the heat to prevent the cheese from curdling. Add the cubed cheese to the pot, gently stirring to ensure it’s evenly distributed. Season the mixture with a generous pinch of salt and the finely minced garlic. Cover the pot and let it cook on low heat for another 5-7 minutes. During this time, the cheese will melt into the mixture, creating a gooey, creamy sauce that blankets the chilies, tomatoes, and onions in spicy, cheesy goodness.

Final Touches

As the ema datshi comes together, it’s time for the final flourish. Check the consistency of the dish. If it appears too thick, you can add a little water to reach your desired consistency. Now, stir in the freshly chopped cilantro and the grated ginger for an aromatic kick that elevates the flavor profile. Let it simmer for a final 2 minutes, allowing the ginger and cilantro to infuse their flavors into the dish.

Lastly, do a final taste test and adjust the seasoning with more salt if needed. The final dish should be a harmonious mix of spicy, tangy, and cheesy flavors that’s absolutely irresistible. Turn off the heat and prepare to serve hot, ideally with a side of red rice to enjoy the authentic Bhutanese experience of ema datshi.

Serving Suggestions

After perfectly balancing the flavors of our ema datshi, it’s time to think about how to serve it. This is as crucial as the cooking process, ensuring an authentic Bhutanese dining experience.


Ema datshi is traditionally enjoyed with red rice, which has a nutty flavor and a slightly sticky texture that complements the creamy and spicy cheese sauce of the dish beautifully. However, for a more diverse table, consider offering a variety of sides:

  • Buckwheat Pancakes: These add a crunchy texture and a deliciously earthy flavor, making them a perfect vehicle for the cheese sauce.
  • Steamed Vegetables: Simple steamed vegetables like broccoli or green beans work well by providing a refreshing crunch and balancing out the heat of the dish.
  • Traditional Bhutanese Bread: Known as Bhutanese buckwheat or barley bread, it can be an alternative to rice for those who prefer a heartier accompaniment.

Presentation Tips

Presentation plays a vital role in elevating the dining experience. Here are some tips to present ema datshi in an inviting manner:

  • Colorful Bowls: Serve ema datshi in traditionally inspired, colorful bowls to enhance the visual appeal and highlight the vibrant colors of the dish.
  • Garnish: A sprinkle of fresh cilantro or a few thin slices of green chili on top can add a fresh visual element and introduce a slight color contrast to the creamy yellow sauce.
  • Serve Hot: Always serve ema datshi hot and bubbling, straight from the stove. The sight and sound of the simmering sauce can stimulate the senses and whet appetites.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Ema Datshi is perfect for those who love to prepare their meals ahead of time, and it stores wonderfully, keeping the flavors rich and vibrant.

Making Ahead

For those busy days when planning ahead is essential, ema datshi can be made in advance with a few adjustments to ensure its freshness and taste. Prepare the dish as per the recipe but hold off on adding the cilantro and ginger until you’re ready to reheat and serve. This small step helps preserve the freshness and zing of these ingredients, making the dish taste like it was made moments ago.

Storing Leftovers

Ema datshi stores exceptionally well, making it a great option for leftovers. To store, let the dish cool to room temperature immediately after cooking to prevent any bacterial growth. Once cooled, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate. Properly stored, ema datshi will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge. When you’re ready to enjoy it again, gently reheat it on the stove over low heat, adding a little water if necessary to thin out the cheese sauce. Remember to stir occasionally to evenly distribute the heat and prevent sticking. Before serving, sprinkle fresh cilantro and ginger to revive its vibrant flavors.


We’ve walked through the delightful journey of making ema datshi, a dish that’s as heartwarming as it is fiery. It’s more than just a recipe; it’s a dive into the rich flavors and traditions of Bhutan. With the steps we’ve shared, you’re now equipped to bring a taste of Bhutanese warmth to your table. Whether it’s a cozy dinner for two or a vibrant gathering of friends and family, ema datshi, paired with its traditional accompaniments, promises to be a conversation starter. Don’t forget to play with the garnishes and presentation to make each serving uniquely yours. Here’s to many enjoyable meals ahead filled with the creamy and spicy goodness of ema datshi. Cheers!

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