Thursday, December 6, 2012

Around the world - Stopover 24 - Bhutan

The kingdom of Bhutan is nestled between India and China at the eastern end of the Himalayas. The majority of the country is mountainous with only 10% of it's fertile land situated in the valleys. Red rice is one of the staples, a medium grain rice with a pinkish hue which is the only variety of rice that can be grown at high altitudes.

My food memory led me to a Bhutanese pineapple rice recipe in Appetite for Reduction as I've read many positive reviews of it around the blogosphere. I was able to track the red rice down in a local Indian spice shop, it has a texture that is similar to brown rice although the cooking time is slightly less. The man isn't a fan of brown rice at all so I was concerned he wouldn't like this and the inclusion of pineapple definitely wasn't going to win him over. I'm not particularly fond of fruit in savoury meals either and replaced the pineapple with some broccoli instead. After the red rice was cooked, it was fried with onion, garlic, ginger, Thai red curry paste, soy sauce, agave and coriander. An extra dash of curry paste and soy sauce was added after an initial taste test to give it some extra heat and flavour.

To round out the meal, I veganised a recipe originally made with chicken called Jasha Maroo. It was frustrating to find exactly the same recipe duplicated on several websites as the method was unclear and didn't state when to add some of the ingredients that were listed. I resorted to cooking it in the manner that seemed most logical to me, frying the onion first followed by the garlic, ginger and chilli and then adding the rest of the ingredients. The tofu I used in this dish was a new variety from the supermarket labelled as medium firm, it actually resembled silken tofu more than firm tofu so I was extremely careful during the cooking process.

This was a fantastic dinner, the tofu dish had a perfect amount of heat for us and it was an excellent partner for the red rice. I was happy with my decision to season the tofu with "chicken" stock rather than salt as it provided an extra depth of flavour. This was also a speedy meal which gave it extra bonus marks. I was very pleased that the man enjoyed it, particularly the rice dish and delighted when he kept going back for more! As a result of this successful meal, red rice may become my brown rice substitute from now on.

Jasha Maroo (Adapted from Asiarecipe)

300g medium firm or firm tofu, drained, pressed and cut into pea sized cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, sliced into rounds
2 cloves garlic, minced
2cm piece ginger, minced
2 green thai chillies, thinly sliced (use 1 chilli for a milder version)
1 tomato, diced
1 teaspoon vegan "chicken" stock powder
½ cup water

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onion and fry for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, ginger and chillies a fry for a minute then gently stir through the tofu, tomato, "chicken" stock powder and water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 10 minutes.


Did you know?

Bhutan was the first country to measure the national index of happiness which later became an accepted worldwide index. Bhutan's third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, made a fleeting remark in a speech that was taken seriously by the Bhutanese. According to Buddhist beliefs, happiness is something that one needs to strive for and the country's leading thinkers set about to find a way to quantify it. The index of happiness is measured on four areas: sustainable development, cultural values, natural environment, and good governance.


  1. Interesting - yet another country whose food I know nothing about. The red rice is a whole revelation to me - when you said red rice, I thought it was the camargue stuff! That tofu dish looks spot-on - just the sort of mix of ingredients I love!

    1. I had only previously heard of the red rice due to Appetite for Reduction but had no other idea about the cuisine. The camargue rice is a new one for me, I stumbled across that when I was reading about red rice. The tofu is definitely my kind of flavours too!

  2. I love the concept of the happiness index and hadn't realised it originated in Bhutan - I also love the look of this dish and the sound of the red rice. I'd probably enjoy it with both pineapple and broccoli!

    Also, I was excited to read that you're planning your WA trip for early next year. You'll have to let me know if have time to catch up in person :-)

    1. There were other contenders for the selected fact, I actually consulted the man's opinion and he agreed it was the best one. It is a great concept and comes from a country of fairly content people with a lot less that us westerners.

      I'll definitely keep you posted about our WA plans which are still incredibly vague at the moment! I would love to meet up with you!

  3. I love the ingredients in these two dishes — I think I'd add both pineapple AND broccoli! I haven't made the red rice dish from AFR yet, but it's now on my to-make list. Thanks for the suggestion. The tofu sounds wonderful and it would be the perfect companion to the rice. I didn't know the happiness index originated in Bhutan. In fact, it occurs to me that I know very little about Bhutan! Time for a little goggling.

    1. Pineapple and broccoli would go together nicely I would imagine! I previously didn't know where the happiness index originated either, it's great finding out these little facts and Bhutan sounds like such an interesting place to explore.

  4. Your dishes are just fascinating! I didn't even know there was a country called "Bhutan" lol.
    I like the index of happiness & think much can be said for that even in today's society!
    Have you seen the Leibster Award going around blogs recenlty? I've nominated you if you'd like to play a part in it :-) Not offended if you don't want to. Its just a great way of connecting bloggers. :-)

    1. Thanks so much for the nomination Sandy! As I mentioned on your blog, I won't pass this one around as I already received a Liebster last year. The awards are a great way of connecting bloggers - now I'm going to add you to my reading list!

  5. Bhutan is such an interesting country--I've always wished it were easier to travel there given it's rather old schoolness & traditional ways of life. The recipes look great! I'm going to have to hunt down some red rice now to try out!

    1. Bhutan does sound like a really lovely country to visit. Anywhere that caps tourist numbers sounds peaceful and traditional to me, definitely my type of place. You should try out the red rice if you can track it down!