In the hierarchy of Bhutanese food, chilies sit in the stratosphere. A shortage of the fiery spice will dominate the news. The cliché goes, in Bhutan, chilies are not a spice but a vegetable. According to Bhutan’s National biodiversity Centre, the species of chili cultivated in Bhutan include Capsicum annuum, Capsicum frutescens, Capsicum pubescens, and Capsicum baccatum.
But can one make a decent ema datsi outside Bhutan? More precisely, is it possible to cook authentic ema datsi in Sweden? My humble answer is yes.
But for that to happen, an essential ingredient has to be considered first. Living abroad one often hears why Bhutanese food outside taste different than in Bhutan even when you prepare it with ingredients brought all the way from Bhutan? Fortunately in Sweden, the quality of water in Stockholm is very agreeable to Bhutanese cuisine.
The supermarkets and food stores in Sweden stock a range of fresh chilies ranging from mild peppers to the spicy habaneros. There are many stores that cater to the needs of the diverse population residing in Stockholm. This means the discerning shopper can get anything from fresh chilies imported from Thailand to in season chilies cultivated in Europe.
For datsi, I use a combination of fresh full fat curd cheese and the soft cheese slices used for toast and hamburgers.
So here comes the recipe.
Ema Datsi for two
Fresh green chilies 100 grams. Sliced.
Full fat curd cheese 200 grams
Three slices of soft cheese.
Two whole tomatoes. 200 grams approximately. Chopped.
Three cloves of garlic. Crushed.
One whole onion. Sliced.
Two tablespoons of butter.
Salt to taste.
In a pot with a lid, first melt the butter. Throw in the chopped garlic and onion. Add a pinch of salt. Stir for a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry for two minutes. As you stir frequently, slowly pour about 2 dl (200 ml) of water. When the sauce starts to boil, add the sliced chilies spreading it evenly over the sauce. As the chilies sit comfortably on the sauce, quickly add the cheese. I recommend crushing the cottage cheese with your hand. Spray it evenly over the chilies. The soft cheese slices will go last. Spread the slices so that they cover the cottage cheese underneath. Close the lid. Cook for two minutes. After turning off the heat, let the pot rest for a minute. Open the lid. You will see that a lush layer of melted cheese on the top. Using a wooden ladle, gently mix the melted cheese with the chilies sitting underneath. Your ema datsi is ready to be served.
A pot with a glass lid enables visual monitoring. Please note that the stirring has to stop when the sauce starts to boil. Once the chilies and cheese are added, we let them stay. Only when the heat is turned off and the pot has rested for a minute, then the final stirring takes place.