Kewa Datshi

 “But how come you never post stuff like this on the blog?”, M asked indignantly while I chopped the onions.

I looked at her with a slightly amazed expression.

“I don’t post everything I cook, baby! You know that!”

“But why not this one? You never seem to post recipes which are not conventional.”

“Darling, this dish has been conventional for Bhutan for a long time!” And I did mean looooooooong.

“Then you had better post it, or else!”

She went back to peeling the garlic clove, and it made me think. M was right. I have made this recipe a lot in the last four years, ever since I discovered it at one of my favorite restaurants, The Blue Poppy. In fact, the woman who sort of directed me to the recipe, Doma Wang, had my heartfelt gratitude for sharing it.

Essentially, you would get a lot of different things with a “datshi” gravy (cheese gravy), but chillies cooked in cheese gravy, or “Ema Datshi” scores high in the list. It is so popular there, that it is possibly their national dish. Slightly less popular, yet no less tasty is the potato version, “Q-Datshi” or “Kewa Datshi”, which I adopt more, because M has virtually no tolerance for chillies, and cries a bucket of tears every time while eating her bowl of fiery Ema Datshi.

The second reason why I hesitated to post this recipe is because of the chillies I generally use to cook this dish – Dalle Khorsani. This cherry pepper is an essential ingredient in my personal kitchen, and the taste, flavor, and heat of it makes everything better, according to my personal philosophy. However, M’s tolerance level is far lower than most, and she prefers it if I use no more than 2-3 of them while making “Q-Datshi”.

Much modified, my recipe might just horrify most Bhutanese person, and I might be put on a hit list for shamelessly appropriating a wonderful dish, but well, the sister demanded that I put up the recipe, and was so enthusiastic about it, that she actually took all the pictures that you see here.

The dish is pretty simple. In a heavy-bottomed vessel, add two small tomatoes, chopped (about 1/2 cup worth), 1 red onion, cut in slices (1/3rd cup), 1 large potato (3/4th cup) diced, and pour 500 ml. water on it. Add 5-6 Dalle Khorsani peppers, whole (I have some preserved in oil with me, thanks to R) and a teaspoon of oil. I also add 2-3 slit green chillies to balance out the flavors (and you can omit the Dalle and add 9-10 green/red chillies to cook this, if you don’t have Dalle in hand).

Once the water comes to a boil, I cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, turn the heat down to a simmer, and let this cook for roughly 12-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.

At this point, contemplate your cheese. Ideally, you should be using chhurpi or something similar. Some friends tell me to use Feta cheese. However, I am a philistine, and I add a mixture of plain cheese spread and simple, processed cheese. In this case, I used about 2 cubes (50 gm.) of plain Amul cheese, plus 4 tablespoon (60 gm.) of Amul plain cheese spread. Feel free to put in as much or as little cheese you like, but, as I said, this is a “Datshi”, i.e. CHEESE GRAVY, so angle on the more, rather than the less.

When the potatoes are soft, add the cheese cubes, cut in cubes, and cover the pan for another 4-5 minutes to let the cheese cook down slightly. Once the cheese has melted, use the back of a spoon to mash some of the potatoes, while stirring over medium-high heat, and incorporate the melted cheese into the gravy. You would need to stir quite a bit, and once the potatoes and cheese is nicely incorporated in a gravy which looks quite uniform, add the cheese spread.

My sister’s eyes sparkle when this part happens.

Once the cheese spread is added, turn off the heat, mix thoroughly, adjust seasoning (add a bit of salt if needed), and serve. Ideally, you should eat this on its own, or with rice. I toast some bread and consume my cheese soup with it. My life as a philistine is made. In technicolor.

Q-Datshi/Kewa Datshi
Written by Poorna Banerjee

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