Ema Datshi at Obama fundraiser!!!

posted May 15, 2012, 2:43 AM by Bhutan Jurmii   [ updated May 15, 2012, 2:44 AM ]

ema datshi in obamas fundraiser
When a chef is cooking for the most special guest like the president of America, Barack Obama, at menu what does he choose? Mushroom Ema Datshi. Bhutan’s signature dish will be served as the main course at the Obama fundraiser in support for gay marriage at the Ruben Museum in New York on Monday. Vikas Khanna, an award winning Michelin Starred Indian chef, restaurateur, food writer, filmmaker, humanitarian and the host of the TV Show Master Chef India will be cooking the dish.

“I am inspired by the Himalayan region and I am looking forward to serving Ema Datshi, which is a national delicacy in Bhutan,” said Vikas Khanna to the media. Vikas Khanna also said that he will be preparing the dish in his signature style by using chanterelle mushrooms and Thai bird which is fresh hot green chilies. The chef will be using Maytag blue cheese to give it a Bhutanese touch. Along with mushroom Ema Datshi as the main course, “Nakey with garlic butter” will also be served. Although known to the world as fiddlehead ferns, Chef Vikas Khanna has chosen to give a Bhutanese name to the dish. The chef wrote on his blog that when one is cooking for the most special guests, whether it is for ones mother or a head of state, he always advise doing what one do best with an eye toward reliable classics. “Chanterelles are plentiful in Bhutan during the season,” writes Vikas Khanna. “And they are considered more as a healthful meal than an extravagance like they are here.” The recipes of the two dishes will also be featured in his forthcoming cookbook, Return to the Rivers. The fundraiser is hosted by Shelley and Donald Rubin of the Shelly and Donald Rubin Foundation. It is a family based foundation in New York City that began operation in 1995. It has a longstanding commitment to the promotion and celebration of Himalayan art. The Himalayan feast is limited to 200 people and a ticket for the intimate dinner with Obama is 35,800 USD. The money will be funneled to the Obama Victory Fund and the Democratic National Committee. The fundraiser overlaps two constituencies that Obama is counting on for political and financial support. Meanwhile, back home people are excited that the president of America will get a taste of Bhutan’s very own Ema Datshi. The president of the Guide’s Association of Bhutan, Garab Dorji, said this is likely to increase the tourist arrivals in Bhutan from America and that this gives the country a very good exposure at the highest level. “I would say it is the biggest advertisement on Bhutan,” said Garab Dorji. “Bhutan is now tagged with the president of America.” According to the Associated Press, president Obama has a weakness for spicy food. He loves chilies. He also has a weakness for chips and salsa but only after he pours hot sauce on everything. On one of his return flight to Washington, Obama snacked on Tutta Bella’s II Presidente Pizza. This pizza was created to satisfy Obama’s ‘love for spicy food.’ The pizza was made up of hot Calabria chilies, which are fiery hot long chili peppers from Calabria in southern Italy. At Dooky Chase's Creole restaurant in New Orleans, the president was reported to have offended longtime owner Leah Chase by pouring hot sauce all over the gumbo she offered to fatten him up. Meanwhile, Obama’s chili with beans recipe has been circulating widely over the internet. Barack Obama told North Coast Journal writer Ari LeVaux that his chili has got the right amount of bite, the right amount of “oomph” in it and it will clear sinuses.

Authentic Bhutanese Craft

posted May 15, 2012, 2:39 AM by Bhutan Jurmii

Bhutan’s first ever Craft Bazaar showcases a wide range of Bhutanese art and craft products. The products in its 80 stalls cover all aspect of Zorigchusum, the 13 traditional arts and crafts.

With the products sourced mostly from rural areas, the bazaar aims to promote Bhutan’s craft industry by creating a viable market, which in turn acts to preserve and promote Bhutan’s unique culture. The initiative is also expected to bring about equitable socio-economic development in the country.

Includes stitching traditional costumes, embroidery (Tshemdrup) and appliqué (Lhemdrup) and production of traditional Bhutanese Tshoglham (boots) and Thangkas.
The fine silk, cotton and wool are woven into colorful attires.

Many hues of traditional paper products are available.

Traditional Bhutanese Designs carved on wood create the most wonderful pieces of artwork.

The art of Thankha(scroll) painting is visible not just in religious institutions but every Bhutanese home

Seeing some of the finest Jim Zo at work at the bazaar is an additional treat.

Cane and bamboo products enjoy a prominence in Bhutanese homes for various purposes. It also works with locals and tourists as decorative and souvenirs.

In a world driven by mass production of crockery, Bhutanese wooden-waves, coming straight from Trashiyangtse in eastern Bhutan, offers an exotic choice.

Ornament making is one of the popular arts in the country. Most are made out of stones like turquoise, coral as well as silver and gold.

Nice Place you have

posted May 13, 2012, 11:32 PM by Bhutan Jurmii   [ updated May 13, 2012, 11:34 PM ]

Much of our planet is now well tramped and deeply-mapped, yet travellers continue to disappear into the peaks, jungles and deserts only to emerge out of the mist, out of the blue, back from the dead. They have tales to tell, or more likely these days, documentaries to sell.

In the past, many individuals preferred their own star to guide them. A few took companions, others hired guides; most just took their chances. While some were rendered speechless by the experience, many wrote down what they had gone through. And we are much richer for it.

Literature and travel are the most effective ways of expanding our horizons. Not only are they two of life’s great joys, they are also legal. Visitors to many a country often see all its faults on arrival and spend the rest of their stay discovering its virtues. Of all the things that travel offers, perhaps the most instructive is the sense of being a foreigner, a temporary refugee in a strange place. Nothing alters your perception of who you are and where you belong as being somewhere else.

Through travel we escape the deadening effects of habit. Travel should question, not confirm. It should excite, not relax. Our senses are never more open than during our first days in a new place. The hiss of gas fires in Turkish railway stations or the tinkle of yak bells in the high mountains - all add up to the backing soundtrack of a culture. Travel doesn’t just expand the mind, it also narrows the gap. We may dress, talk and eat differently, but there is always far more that binds us than separates us.

However, for those who now commute across continents in order to work, the reality of travel is totally different. I remember being on a flight and suddenly realizing that here were 400 people at 35,000 feet flying across the Swiss Alps in glorious sunshine, and not one person was looking out of the window. They were either gazing down at their laptops, or up at the movie. For a split second I felt incredibly sad.

To go travelling in my youth meant leaving for months, or longer. It was that kind of time. People weren’t just roaming, they were searching. The only way to do this was to go out and earn money; that meant hard labour and long hours. There were choices in the UK: the North Sea oil rigs, or huge steel smelters in Manchester. I chose to work on the Isle of Anglesey off North Wales, where I met a man who had a wooden staircase in his home, looted from a wrecked ship from the Spanish Armada in the year 1588. I headed for the mighty Rio Tinto Aluminium plant, with its huge chimneys that spat fire and belched smoke like some promotional travel poster for Mordor. I worked 12 hour night shifts, seven days a week, for six months. I lived cheap and only saw daylight on Sundays.

“Oh, you’ll love Wales,” my big brother said in a mocking tone.
“It will be hell. Rain sodden, dwarfs everywhere, mining excessively.”

One friend went off to teach English in some dismal, camelchewed town in Morocco where he knew there would be no drink, no women, and no distractions. He saved a sackful of cash, and made one friend, a local, who had never been in a town with a building taller than a giraffe. But my friend did stay one weekend in a Bedouin tent. An Arab burst in while he was undressing:
“Get out of my tent or I’ll call the manager...!”
“But I am the manager.”
“Oh, nice place you got here sheik.”
“Just came to inform you that tonight we are serving camel spit soup and sheep’s eyeballs…”

We’d drool over classifieds like: “Mongolian-Siberian Travel Adventure: Assistants needed for documentary. 1,500 miles on horseback around Lake Baikal. Five months intimate contact with locals high and low.” The fact neither of us knew anything about Mongolia was dismissed as a minor inconvenience. We had the spirit. We could leave now. But the plan was abandoned as the closest I’d ever got to a horse was a nasty moment in an Italian restaurant outside Liverpool.

And how should we behave when travelling? We are, after all, ambassadors of our own cultures. A well-travelled English friend once boasted to me that he could ask, “Do you take me for a fool?” in nine languages. I was obliged to remind him that yes, they had. Although I am somewhat ashamed to say it, off the top of my head, I can’t exactly remember where Captain William Pakenham was in 1837, when he disembarked from his ship and instructed his interpreter, “Tell these ugly bastards that I am not going to tolerate any more of their bestial habits”, whether he was in China, Nigeria, or perhaps even Wales. It was just immediately apparent to him, that as an Englishman, he was qualified and entitled to put things right among foreigners.

And let’s not forget Robert Clive of India who, when called before the English parliament to answer charges of excessive greed regarding the looting of a maharajah’s palace, said:
“When I entered that treasure room and saw all the gold and jewellery, I was amazed at my own restraint.”
The charges were dropped. There are also moments of sheer awe that leave a traveller, or an invader, truly gobsmacked. Forever. During Napoleon Bonaparte’s disastrous 1798 campaign in Egypt, an entire regiment snapped to attention when they first glimpsed the Temple of Karnak at Luxor, just after sunrise, without any orders to do so. A spontaneous moment of group respect.

Meanwhile, British historians learned Sanskrit so they could pore over the rich literature in Bengal and were staggered to find just how ancient and extraordinary India really was. But as the early philosophy of Empire changed from trade to rule, so the ruler changed his view of those with whom he formally traded. It was a view from above, with a mind to impose. The muffled, foggy bellow of the ships in the bay; the menace and power. Victorian arrogance at its most breathtaking.

But I prefer to remember the bespectacled Cambridge undergraduate, standing outside an Egyptian tomb, shirtsleeves rolled up, and just days before he was part one of the greatest discoveries ever made, about which he said simply: “Tutankhamen’s death mask is the most beautiful thing ever made by anyone, anywhere, at any time.” I agree.

A member of a British expedition to Antarctica wrote: “The snow looks like it’s scattered with diamonds and there’s glitter in the air because of the ice crystals. It’s a very, very dangerous and hostile environment, but the beauty is just incredible.” He never made it home.

For most of us, expeditions are the stuff of dreams; mad undertakings by driven individuals who set off into the unknown, and until quite recently, were often festooned with butterfly nets, jam jars, harpoons and zoological dictionaries. In those days you needed gold, courage, God’s blessing and a decent brandy.

The desert calls for a different breed. A good example is “The Worst Desert on Earth: Crossing the Taklimakan”, by Charles Blackmore. Everything about the vast oval shaped desert in northwest China is obscure. Few people have heard of it, fewer still have gone into it. There’s a very good reason for this: there are perfectly good ways around it. Blackmore’s book vividly reminds us that even with GPS navigating equipment (which clogged up) and Pinz Gauer vehicles (which bogged down), in the end it all came down to the old fashioned ingredients: water, legs, camels and guts. The reader is left in no doubt that while the Taklimakan Desert could be beautiful with its star-filled nights and magical dawns; it also demanded everything from the men who were attempting to cross it.

I also like the crisp, neat style of Alice Thompson, who wrote in the Spectator magazine: “Paul, a white South African guide meets us and introduces us to our tracker, a cook, 350 square miles of Africa, two tents and a Landrover.” And then says, “See ya.”

I have been fortunate enough to experience breathtaking vistas, surprising honour, random cruelty, unexpected hospitality and cheap cunning; humanity and nature at its finest and most annoying. I am also astonished by the unfading memory of the people I’ve met: the Tunisian herdsman offering me a bowl of warm cow’s blood and then asking if I had met David Beckham, and being utterly shocked when he discovered I hadn’t. Or the pretty teenager in the guesthouse in Kandahar, who wanted me to help her with her English homework and solemnly intonated in the correct tenses, “My dog hasn’t eaten my sock, the parrot has.”

But in a delicious twist of irony, people often travel only to discover that what they really need is already at home, but are unable to recognize this truth until they have travelled. It is only hindsight that gives travel any meaning. That’s the deal.

I believe that all travellers are optimists. In a way, travel is optimism in action. It’s why I always order vegetarian food on an aircraft: you have no idea what you will get, but at least you get it first.

Every time I have set off for the unknown, I’ve always felt everything is going to be okay, and even if it isn’t, it will be worth writing down in order to make the personal universal. I won’t fall off a mountain, be squashed by a truck, or kidnapped by an Islamic militant. I can’t shake the feeling, instilled in childhood, that whatever happens, I am just incredibly lucky to have been able to experience this world and that, at the end of the day, there will always be a room at the inn. So far, so good.


Food of Paradise

posted May 13, 2012, 11:01 PM by Bhutan Jurmii   [ updated May 13, 2012, 11:07 PM ]

Grand parents in Bhutan call dumplings, " Food of Paradise", because the real taste is hidden inside. The flavour of dumpling is subject to what we stuff inside the jacket made from wheat or buckwheat flour. Dumplings can also be found in some parts of India, Nepal and any other place which has Tibetan influence. Similar dish called Buuz is found in Mongolia and China called Jioazi.

Hontay is endemic to Bhutan and is made by people of Haa prefecture. Haa is the western most district of Bhutan and hontays are made during their New Year called Lomba. This particular dumpling is made from Sweet Buckwheat flour- and water dough. The fillings are made from spinach leaves, thinly chopped turnips and other ingredients are lots of ginger, chilli (if you wish) and wild pepper. The fillings are fried a little bit with salt to taste. Haaps, natives from Haa, make the buckwheat dough, fill it with the inside stuffing, seal it in preferred shape and then steam it. If you do not like steamed hontay, fry it under low flame in oil of your choice. Just like the momos, the Bhutanese enjoy chilli chutney to go with the hontay. The younger generation also enjoy trying tomato ketchup instead of chillin chutneys.
Momos preferred in Bhutan are normally stuffed with yak meat, pork, beef, cheese with vegetable but people try with chicken and fish. The filling is your personal choice and nowadays the younger generation try sweet beans and fruits to call their recipe, " Sweet Momo". One can get momo in almost all the restaurants in Bhutan but there is more charm when you make it at home. It becomes a social event where every family member try making it in a group. It is also an observation for the parents to see who among the siblings has artistic temperaments. One of the favourite childhood memories for most Bhutanese is the joy of receiving crudely made momos by their elders from the leftover of dinner. One of my friend would remind us of how her grandfather would make momo from the leftover meals. Her story would be the ending lines whenever we talk about dumplings. She would tell us how her grandpa mashed the leftover rice, flattened it in a disc-shape and then stuff leftover curry in it. He would seal it artistically and passed it on her.
The common shapes that restaurants make in Bhutan are round or crescent - shaped. I have seen my friends experiment with other crazy shapes: in square, triangles, rectangles and circular disc-like. The tricky part is getting the seals right so that the artistic design stays well even after steamed.
Nowadays we can get various types of convenient steamers bu in our grandparents time they use very simple steaming methods. A bigger pot half filled with water was used as the outer pot and in it three round stones with the size of a clenched fist was immersed. Over the stones a befitting lid with many holes pecked into it was laid. The momo were then placed over it and the lid for the outer pot was closed. Then the water was heated and checked now and then to see if the momo were steamed well or not. The old method was little cumbersome but had done what it was to perform with ingenuity.

Travelers in Search of Happiness

posted May 12, 2012, 3:10 AM by Bhutan Jurmii   [ updated May 13, 2012, 11:01 PM ]

As travelers in Bhutan we have the truly exceptional opportunity to experience and be part of a living culture that the rest of the world would be wise to watch and learn from. There is a magic here that is literally beyond words and all it takes for us to get a glimpse of this magic prepared to be surprised. Before you know it you are “boldly going where no one has gone before” – if you are not familiar with this legendary quote please let me explain. Its originates from a sci-fi TV series from the 1960s called ‘star trek’. This quote has been used profusely across the world as a catch-phrase to signal innovation, exploration, human evolution and visionary actions by enlightened leaders.

Taking this quote out of its original context and applying ti to a journey in Bhutan should give you a hint that traveling in Bhutan is really like nowhere else in world. Why? Well, to start with there is Bhutans development philosophy, which measures its progress not by comparing GDP but instead measures the levels of happiness of its people. This development approach is what you hear affectionately referred to in Bhutan as ‘Gross National Happiness’ or GNH. This visionary philosophy is advocated by His Majesty the king, political leaders and thought-leaders in Bhutan and is blossoming in its application by being systemized as part of government decision making, in private sector business operations and within the education system throughout Bhutan.

Much of the application of GNH in government and business, shares may elements of Sustainable Business and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programs across the world. The CSR approach is fast being discovered by many corporations around the world as a new business model, which advocates the sentiment of ‘doing well by doing good’. Most companies however focus on easy or obvious aspects of ‘greening’ the business and on community contributions but they often miss the most important aspects of CSR today-the human dimension of sustainability and the work that we need to do on ourselves as people.

This is where we can learn a great deal from Bhutan and its GNH values and what they mean for us as human beings. It’s time that sustainability focuses on our actions and behaviours as human beings and not just on the things that we can influence outside of us and can be tweaked with technology. The time has come to ask ourselves the rather perplexing questions about how sustainable our thoughts, emotions, actions, reactions and behaviors really are, how sustainable are our minds and the words and intentions that we share with the world around us? If you are prepared to even contemplate these questions, you are as a GNH Travelers, about “to boldly go where not many have gone before”!

Exploring the nature of mind is probably the most stimulating and thought provoking topic to be immersed in while you are traveling in the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan. If this is something that you are interested in, you are definitely in the right place. There will be many opportunities for your guide to arrange to meet the Buddhist teachers to ask the questions that might arise for you from reading this article and from your journey in Bhutan.

As a GNH Traveler, one of the key questions to explore is whether our actions and behaviours every moment of the day actually increase or decrease the collective levels of happiness of our society? To really grasp the importance of this question we need to understand one of the Buddhist principles, which assumes that our actions and emotions are part of an endless cycle of cause and effect and that they are always connected, inevitable and leave an impression behind. The beautiful way to get started on the journey of being GNH Traveler in Bhutan is to visit a school, a monastery or a nunnery and watch what happens in your mind and the natural reaction that comes up of wanting to contribute and help in some way. When we realize that transforming our minds, will contribute to the transformation of the world, then we have created the beginnings of a GNH society.

I wish you an amazing journey as a GNH Traveler in this magical Buddhist kingdom and that it may take you to places in your mind where you had not gone before.


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