I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to visit Bhutan, the “Land of the Thunder Dragon“. It’s an incredible country of natural beauty, friendly people, and deliciously unique cuisine. In Bangkok there are a few restaurants that offer a few dishes claiming to be Bhutanese. But sadly these offerings are not even close to being authentic. You need Bhutanese ingredients to make Bhutanese food. But now the newly opened restaurant Little Bhutan (official Facebook page) offers Bangkok diners an authentic Bhutanese food menu.
What makes Little Bhutan “authentic”? For starters it’s Bhutanese owned, operated, and there is a Bhutanese chef working the kitchen. But what really brings authenticity to the dishes are the fact that they use ingredients imported fresh from Bhutan! Bhutanese red chili peppers, cheese, sun dried pork belly, teas, and spices are some of the things that truly give guests a taste of Bhutan. Yet despite the importation of much of their ingredients, they manage to keep their prices at an incredible value. Let me show you!
Just a taste of Little Bhutan…
Through my research of Little Bhutan I was able to discover that they had Ema Datshi (Bhutan’s national chili and cheese dish) and momos. Both are personal favorites of mine. But the rest of the menu was a mystery to me as there was no information about it. Once I arrived and saw their 4 page menu filled with various Bhutanese dishes I was amazed. If you want to discover Bhutanese food in Bangkok THIS is the place to go!
Every meal should begin with a plate of momos. Little Bhutan offers 2 kinds of momos: cheese or meat (usually chicken, but they sometimes offer pork). Each dish comes with 5 momos and a fiery chili sauce called ezay which is made with Bhutanese red chili peppers. Attached to the kitchen is a small takeaway window–these momos are hugely popular and are flying out that window.
The Vegetarian Momo (60 baht) is made with a Bhutanese cheese called “datshi” and a mix of vegetables. Datshi is often made with cow and yak milk and it’s a very creamy cheese with a mild flavor that doesn’t get oily when you cook with it. The wrapping is similar to a steamed dumpling, and it’s not considered rude to eat these momos by hand (making sure to smear some of that spicy ezay chili sauce on it!).
Little Bhutan serves their meat filled momos two ways: steamed or pan fried. I ordered the Chicken Momo (70 baht) dish steamed–but if you want a little more oomph go with the pan fried option. The dumplings are generously filled with minced chicken and ginger and are very tasty. Again, make sure to put some heat on it with that ezay chili sauce!
The main dishes…
Little Bhutan has an extensive menu of main dishes. What I ate during my visit was just the tip of the iceberg for what they have to offer. I ordered a few of my favorites from my experience visiting Bhutan. All of their dishes are traditional homestyle meals from various regions of Bhutan. So if you enjoy Indian cuisine, try some of the Southern Bhutanese curries.
The meat on the Phaksha Ribs (155 baht) just falls off the bone. The meat is seasoned with Bhutanese red chillies and vegetables (green beans in this case). It looks like a spicy dish, but surprisingly the peppers give the meat a mildly spicy flavor and most of the heat is cooked off in the cooking process. If you’re a fan of BBQ ribs, give Bhutan’s version a try.
If pork isn’t your thing, try the Jasha Paa (99 baht) dish. This Bhutanese style dish is made with tender chicken chunks boiled with chili and vegetables. For this dish they use Bhutanese chili powder as a seasoning. It’s much more mild compared to Asian chili powder and gives the broth a subtly spicy depth.
In Bhutan you often find this dish with bones (and bits of bones) and a slick of oil on the top of the bowl. Thankfully, Little Bhutan doesn’t serve it this way, but they capture all of the flavor of the dish.
Looking for a collagen kick? This is the dish for you. Similarly flavored to the Phaksha Paa dish, the Sikam Paa (220 baht) is seasoned with chili and vegetables. The real treat with this dish is that it’s made with Bhutanese style dried pork belly brought straight from Bhutan. I knew I was in for a treat when I started hearing the hissing sounds emanating from the kitchen from the pressure cooker. That’s the only way this classic Bhutanese dish can and should be prepared.
I know what you’re thinking. It looks fatty, right? It is. I’m not a person who enjoys really fatty pork. In fact, I’m one who often trims the fat and skin from pork belly leaving a small mound of remains on my plate. But this dish is different. The texture and flavor of the fat is incredible. Decadent really. Here the slices of pork belly are a little thicker than what I enjoyed in Bhutan–but I’m not complaining. This is a must try dish if you want to experience real Bhutanese food in Bangkok!
Bhutan’s national dish…
The national dish for Bhutan is ema datshi. Ema means chili, and datshi means cheese. Simply put, the dish is chili and cheese. Little Bhutan serves two styles of ema datshi: one with Thai green chili peppers and one with Bhutanese red chili peppers. I chose to have the more authentic option.
It’s interesting to me that when you cook with the Bhutanese red chili, much of the spiciness is cooked away with one exception: this dish. This Ema Datshi (199 baht) dish is made with the meaty, leathery skinned Bhutanese red chili pepper, the creamy datshi cheese, onions and tomato. This is a cheesy fiery tornado in your mouth.
It’s an absolute must try dish. Aficionados of HOT will appreciate the smokiness of the peppers and the slow burning buildup with each bite. But I highly recommend you order a side of rice with this. Little Bhutan serves White Rice (15 baht) and the wonderful Bhutanese Red Rice (30 baht). It shouldn’t shock you that I would recommend upgrading to the Bhutanese red rice (which looks like white rice with small red flecks of color on the grains). You’re worth it!
Little Bhutan has a limited drink menu, but everything is reasonably priced. For beer drinkers (and if you get the ema datshi you will want one) small bottles of Chang are 50 baht and large bottles are 80 baht. Soft drinks are priced between 25-30 baht, and orange juice at 20 baht. Water is 10 baht. I wanted something special to finish my meal with. I ordered a piping hot Butter Tea (40 baht) or suja.
Let me be up front here. Butter tea or suja, is not for everyone. But I do recommend that folks try it at least once. From the first sip I was immediately gripped with a nostalgia from my adventures trekking around Tibet and Bhutan. This is a Himalayan staple drink and a facet of living in these countries.
Little Bhutan uses the black tea leaves used in Bhutan for their Butter Tea (40 baht). It’s a strong and slightly bitter tea. Suja is made by boiling the tea leaves and then adding butter and salt. It’s the saltiness that usually turns people off of the drink. But once you get over that aspect it’s actually quite creamy and an instant energy boost!
A chat with Little Bhutan’s owner…
While visiting the Little Bhutan restaurant I had the opportunity to chat and dine with Tshering Penior “Max”. I brought a plastic bottle of ara (a Bhutanese alcohol made by fermenting grains) that I got during my trip to Bhutan. We had a great time enjoying the ara with the food while I learned a bit about his story and the restaurant.
Originally from Paro, Bhutan, Max attended St. Anthony’s College in Shilong, India to study business marketing. He returned to Thimphu where he became involved in a touring company called Druk Bhutan Tours. As a marketing manager he traveled frequently to Bangkok to network with other tour operators and market the tours to Bhutan. Wanting to branch out in 2015 he and a partner opened the Druk Restaurant in Thimphu.
During his travels to Bangkok he began to realize 2 things: he loved the city and there were zero options for authentic Bhutanese cuisine available. There are thousands of Bhutanese students studying in Bangkok, and thousands of Bhutanese professionals who are expats living here. Here Max saw an opportunity. Bangkok needed a Little Bhutan in its food landscape.
In December, 2018 he moved to Bangkok and after a month of researching found a location ideal to open Little Bhutan with his brother. His vision was to introduce Bhutanese food to Bangkok using family recipes, unique Bhutanese ingredients, and cooking techniques. Opening in January, 2019, the momos were an instant success. The restaurant has quickly become popular with the local Bhutanese, Nepalese, and Indians who are familiar with the Bhutanese food.
I’m hungry. Where is it?
Just as the small country of Bhutan is located between the countries of China and India, the restaurant Little Bhutan is located right between the “Chinatown” and “Little India” areas of Bangkok. It’s located on a small alley directly across from the India Emporium (Chakkraphet Road).
The restaurant is clean and Spartanly decorated with a few pictures of Bhutan and the Bhutanese royalty. It is the only option for Bhutanese food in Bangkok so come with an open mind to discover something new, authentic, delicious, and very reasonably priced.
Should you visit I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below or you can contact me directly.
If you have an interest in Bhutan and its food, Little Bhutan is a must visit restaurant for authentic Bhutanese food in Bangkok. I’ve only covered a few of the dishes they have to offer on their menu. There are many more dishes which I look forward to trying later. For a great read of must try Bhutanese dishes, check out Mark Wiens’ Migrationology article for 25 must try dishes. It was a a very helpful resource for me when I visited Bhutan.
Some additional dishes Mark Wiens mentions (that I have not already covered in this article) that are on Little Bhutan’s menu are: Kewa Datshi (89 baht), Shamu Datshi (145 baht), Jasha Maru (99 baht), and Hogay Salad (39 baht). But there are also many other dishes not mentioned in this or the Migrationology article that are on Little Bhutan’s menu!
If you’re interested in visiting Bhutan my friend from GlobalGaz has partnered with Raven Tours for a 7 day circuit tour with a special $25 discount/day. (I do not receive a commission) Details of that tour taking place November 7-13, 2019 can be found here. It truly is an amazing country, and visiting there was one of the most amazing travel experiences I have had.