This is The Soup Spoon’s second visit to Bhutan to gather our Souper Inspirations for “Take Me To Bhutan”. Our sponsor Druk Asia and partner DrukAir have been instrumental in planning the unique culinary and cultural experiences that Bhutan has to offer, and we are deeply thankful for that. These blog entries capture our happy memories traversing across the green green land of Bhutan, our Souper Inspirations, and the many stories we have to tell behind each and every soup and dish and drink we have savoured and been inspired by. We bring to you The World in One Kitchen – from Bhutan to our kitchen to you.
Our Bhutan trip is centred around the theme of ‘Farm To Table’, and we journeyed on the mountainous roads from Paro, where the international airport is, to Thimphu, the capital, for her weekend market, up to Punakha to see the rice paddy fields and vast agricultural land, and finally further up the high lands to Bumthang for buckwheat, wheat, potato fields and the cheese, honey and beer factories. The days stretch languidly like the land does, each day wholly filled with farming, cooking, hiking, yet also magically blessed with slowness and spaces carved out to take in the modesty and serenity of the country.
We couldn’t have asked for a better start to our Bhutan trip – we were on the same flight as the Bhutan King Jigme Khesar and Queen Jetsun Pema! We have heard much about how well-loved the royal couple is in Bhutan, and to be in such close proximity to them was really quite the honour. Seated just three rows behind them (albeit blocked by the barrier that separated the Business Class from the Economy Class), we caught glimpses of their backs, and the Queen’s enchanting eyes and smile from her side profile. She exuded much elegance and beauty, and I was every bit the fangirl when she smiled at me as she alighted from the plane! We were souper stoked, to say the least!
Our guide Ugyen, with his warm big eyes and a smile broad like his shoulders, spotted us first at the airport. “Anna, so good to see you again!” And there, that familiar and welcoming voice. It was really so good to see him again, the guide who had been such a souper host in my first trip here 14 months ago. This time, a burly jolly bespectacled driver nicknamed Panda, joined us.
We headed out of the airport. And at once, there is a sense of disorientation but also, a strange feeling of home. It’s easy to feel a little lost in a land that is so vastly different from ours, but yet, a wonderful sense of belonging has also set in. This odd homeliness in the basics of life – nature. If colours were to have a smell, green smells just like this. Earthly, cleansing, gratifying. This is the smell of the tranquility that is Bhutan.
The land’s a sprawling palette of all kinds of greens. Muted shades of mossy green on the lower grassland, deeper royal tones as we elevated. Ahead, the road stretched away, long and winding. The sides of the road were paved with more greens. “Apple trees. We can harvest in October,” he said. We passed by fields of varying sizes, many bursting with produce. Ah, the joy of new life. As a foodie, there is really nothing more satisfying than seeing fresh food bounties in lands so vast. I really couldn’t wait to find out more about the agriculture that would have greatly influenced the local cuisine. This quote below by a famous epicure just about sums up everything!
“The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of the human race than the discovery of a star.” ~Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
So, I warmly invite you to this taste of green through my inspirations and memories from Bhutan. In the next few posts, we take stock of what we have gathered in the seemingly endless stretch of beautiful green land – 7 Things in 7 Days in Bhutan! Tashi Delek! (Cheers!)