One dinner was planned at Chig ja gye restaurant in Taj Tashi and it happened on the third day of our visit. With much elan, I wore a GHO – the national dress of Bhutan and attended the Suja making process in the evening in Thongsel- the all day dining at Taj Tashi.

How to make Suja, the Bhutanese tea ? 

Suja is the local tea which is made by boiling local tea leaves for long and then adding blobs of butter (no it’s not a typo) and salt. The same is churned in a traditional bamboo wood churner, similar to the hand pumps we used in our childhood for our cycles. Finally, the tea is poured in a serving canister called Jamji and served in a small bowl called Pho. A you take a sip, you realise that the inside of your mouth gets lined with butter. I could draw a similiarity from my Kashmir visit and tasting Kahva for several times.Llike Kahva, Suja is also consumed throughout the day and acts as a drink to keep yourself warm against extreme cold weather. In one of the unique experiences that Taj Tashi offers, I wore the national Bhutanese dress GHO and attended tea making ceremony and then the dinner too. Tea was served with Bhutanese finger foods like Kharang Aracini or chili buckwheat cookeis and local dancers performed in Thongsel- the all day dining and perform 30 minutes of performance. 

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Traditional dance 1

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Traditional dance 2

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Traditional dance 3

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Traditional dance – 4

You can catch the tea making process here –

Chig Ja Gye Restaurant  

Chig Ja Gye means 108 and it has got so much of significance in religions across the world and in science too.

26 cover restaurant with typical oriental interiors, Chig Ja Gye is the flagship restaurant of Taj Tashi and often been considered as the only 5 star speciality Bhutanese restaurant in Bhutan. The gold leaf paintings on the walls, intrinsic playing of black wooden furniture and red linen and dim ligh focussed only on the tables is a perfect set up for an experiential dinner.

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Inside Chig Ja Gye

In astrology, there are 12 planets and 9 houses. 12 x 9 = 108

Earlier in the day, I met with Executive Chef Piyush Mishra and Melvyn Saldannah, the enterprising GM, I told them jokingly that I did not mind having an Omakase with Chef and all of us had a burst of laughter over that. Piyush is a silent assassin and one of the rare chefs who wasn’t bothered about the documentation of food in pics and words but said – chill and enjoy your dinner and we will do the formalities later. We started the meal with soup served in a large white bowl.

chig ja gye retaurant bhutan the entire spread

My spread for the evening

Number of beads in a Buddhist prayer mala = 108

The soup was called – Hoentshey Kakuru Jaju,  a white creamy soup with wild spinach, dices of pumpkin and some golden garlic, cheese and milk. The starters followed. Chicken momos and vegetable momos came with ezzay- the Bhutanese red chilli dip. No one needs to describe the momos. They were so comforting but I personally found the outer covering a bit thick for my liking but the ezzay made up for it.

There are 27 constellations in our galaxy and each has 4 directions. 27×4 = 108 

We started the main course at Chig Ja Gye with the national dish – Ema Datshi. No words are enough for this particular dish as it’s highly acclaimed status perhaps makes it like an egg roll of Kolkata or a butter chicken/ muttton rogan josh of North India or Vada Pav of Mumbai. Creamy broth of local ricotta cheese and butter with local green chilies and cooked like a stew. Need I say more? This dish has got all that is needed to keep oneself warm in the cold of Bhutan. This is a simple comfort food and connects with you in every bite and sip. Kewa Fin was potato cheese and glass noodles stew, again of the same nature as Ema Datshi but sans the spike of the chilies. Instead it has glass noodles and is another staple food for them.What made these stews stand out was the cheese. The local cheese is rather high on salt and has a taste note which is somewhat in between feta cheese and blue cheese. 

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The national dish of Bhutan – Ema Datshi

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Jasha Maroo the traditional chicken curry

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Kewa fin the potato cheese stew with glass noodles

chig ja gye retaurant bhutan dolom ngo ngou

Dolom ngo Ngou – the dark horse

Distance between Sun and Earth is 108 times the diameter of Sun and distance between Moon and Earth is 108 times the diameter of moon.

Beef and Pork is the most used protein in Bhutan and chicken is not preferred. So the red Jasha Maroo, where normally Pork is used was presented with chicken. A fiery red curry with chilli flakes and spring onions is more like the Bengali Mangshor jhol but not thick consistency and small pieces of tender chicken. The distinct flavour of ginger was shining through this dish. Phaksha Baysum is stir fried pork with fried red chilies and radish and this with Beef Pa, which was home styled beef cooked with dry chilies and loads of onions, gives the perfect balance for the gravy of the stew. The broad difference between both Phaksha Baysum and Beef Pa was the cut of the pork which was smaller and known as Bayshum

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It’s said that there are 108 feelings in together – 36 of the past, 36 of present and 36 of future 

Dolom ngo Ngou was the darkhorse who won the race and heart both in the last lap. I have never had crispy tempura batter fried aubergines with tomatoes, onion and spring onion which tasted as good as this one. It grows on you and small pieces of aubergines make it addictive. Just like Uttarakhand, red rice is very common here and it’s called as Churm Marp. This is a staple with every kind of food that they eat. That completed the entire food sojourn at Chig ja Gye restaurant in Taj Tashi but for a food lover like me, it’s not the end but a pause before I hit this place again with some new recommendations by the ever smiling waiting staff – Sonam and Chef Piyush Mishra too.

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Executive Chef Piyush Mishra and Sonam – Thanks for a wonderful evening

Did you know

  1.  In Bhutan, they don’t prefer eating desserts and the best they can do in completing a meal with dried fruits or western desserts. Chef Piyush had made for us – Gulab Jamun cheese cake
  2. As the winter is on for 6 months, where procurement of any vegetables become impossible, Bhutanese dry their vegetables, meats, chilies and fruits as well.
  3. It’s simple and non complicated cooking without many spices or flavours and the mantra is to keep it simple.
  4. Cheese and butter and chilli are the most essential components of the cuisine.
  5. Datshi means Cheese, so Ema Datshi is chilli cheese stew. The same stew made with potatoes is called kewa dashi, which is slightly milder in taste and with mushrooms is called shamu datshi. 

Address of Chig Ja gye in Bhutan – 

Taj Tashi, Samten Lam, Chubachu, Post Box no. – 524, Thimpu Bhutan 

Cost – Meal for 2 will be INR 3500 plus taxes 

P.S. – I was invited by Taj Tashi for an experiential tour around Thimpu and the property and the meal was complimentary as a part of that. 

In case you want to see my conversation with Chef Piyush please click here – Please subscribe to the channel as we plan to upload more interesting real time videos here.