Exotic Bhutanese Food & Buckwheat Pancakes + Hike to Buddhist Monastery | Thimphu, Bhutan

With four days in Bhutan already under my belt, day five started off with a bang! Come along with me as I enjoy some exceptional and exotic Bhutanese food and buckwheat pancakes and go on a hike to a Buddhist monastery in Thimphu, Bhutan!

My day began bright and early on a cold March day at the Pedling Hotel & Spa, where I started with a Central Bhutanese breakfast! In central Bhutan, they’re known for their buckwheat, which they make into noodles and pancakes. After breakfast, I’d go on a 90-minute hike through a forest to the oldest Buddhist monastery in the city. Then, I’d have some lunch! But first, it was time for breakfast!

In the dining area, I had some buckwheat pancakes. I’d never had them before. Instead of having them plain or with butter, I had them with honey to cut the bitterness from the buckwheat. I ate them with my hands. The pancakes were light and buttery, with an earthy flavor. They were also less doughy than wheat pancakes, but they were still fluffy like an American pancake. I liked them way better with honey, though. I needed to fill up on some carb-rich Bhutanese food before my hike to the Buddhist monastery!

The sun was out, so even though it was a cold day, it would be more bearable.

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After breakfast, I met up with my guide from MyBhutan, Tsheten, and drove back through Thimphu to the Buddha Dordenma. This is the largest sitting Buddha in the world. On the way there, you get amazing views of Thimphu as you follow the winding road, which is lined with prayer flags. With a belly full of Bhutanese food, I was ready for my Buddhist monastery hike!

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This hike wouldn’t be steep uphill like the one for Tiger’s Nest Monastery. It’s more gradual. The monastery, Changangkha Lhakhang, was built in the 12th century. After 15 minutes, we arrived at the Kuenselphodrang Nature Park, where they created the biking and hiking trail in 2011. It was flat and breezy out, and it was really warm in the sun but freezing in the shade!

We passed lots of prayer flags on the mountainside. They bless the passersby. From the trail, I got an awesome look at the distant Buddha Dordenma, which looked even more massive from far away. The mountains behind it gave me a better perspective of how big it was!

This region of Bhutan doesn’t get much snowfall. They had barely had any in the winter. The ground was really dry as we were approaching spring. We passed a picnic area, where we could see the city and the temple we were heading to, as well as higher, snowcapped mountains in the distance. After gradually heading uphill and walking through more prayer flags, the path narrowed as we headed into the forest, which is full of blue pines and rhododendrons. Blue pines are what they use for house construction.

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The hike wasn’t too bad. I was a little out of shape, but you don’t have to be an expert hiker to walk it. I advise staying way to the left, as the right side has a very steep drop. After you cross a couple of wooden bridges, it gets super narrow as you cling to the side of the mountain. I couldn’t understand how this was a bike trail. It was so treacherous!

You can get to Changangkha Lhakhang by car, but hiking this trail to get there is the real experience. Ninety minutes after we began, we reached the monastery. I took off my hat entered the courtyard. People come there with their kids so they can be named and blessed. They don’t have family names in Bhutan, so the names come from the temple.

I couldn’t take photos or videos inside. Inside the monastic complex is a small room where I could see many monks, the god of compassion, and people coming in with their children to be named. There are 108 prayer wheels to turn outside.

After leaving that area, I saw a colorful display that’s meant to wash away evil spirits. The monastery was very beautiful and peaceful!

Then, we hopped back in the car to go to a local restaurant to have some exotic Bhutanese food after leaving the beautiful Buddhist monastery! We passed by some beautiful buildings in the capital, which is pretty dense and congested, but it only takes 10-15 minutes to cross it.

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We arrived at Kalden Restaurant, the only restaurant that only sells traditional food in Thimphu. It has a main dining hall and two private dining rooms in the back. We ate in the second private dining room and ordered 8 dishes, including spareribs, cheese and egg butter fry, spinach and cheese, white chilies and cheese, pigs feet, red rice, creamy spinach soup, and tripe (beef stomach). Every dish has spice in it. I couldn’t wait to dig in!

The creamy spinach soup was spicy, light, and creamy! It’s a common dish you’ll find throughout the country. It was very tasty. Then I dove into the tripe, which looked phenomenal. It contained chilies and was so flavorful! It was a little rubbery and spongy with numbing and spicy Szechwan peppers. I loved it!

Next were dried red chilies with red rice. The rice tempers the heat a bit. The chilies were oily and numbed my mouth! Then, I went with the cheese and egg butter fry, which tasted like melted mozzarella cheese! I loved the texture of the egg but couldn’t really taste the butter. It was an abundance of cheese, though!

I hadn’t had the white chili with cheese yet on this trip, so I went for it next. They say it’s spicier than the red ones! My lips had gone numb at that point, but the chilies were nice, meaty, and full of flavor. They weren’t too hot and were nothing compared to the red chilies. The flavor and texture were similar to mushrooms due to their thickness.

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In the mushrooms and cheese, they mostly use fresh cow cheese instead of a combination of fresh and processed cheese. It’s why it’s so tasty! Next were some gelatinous pig feet. They contain a tiny bone but the rest is edible. Then, I went for the spareribs, which had a glazy sauce on them, similar to Chinese ribs. It was hot and drenched in chili sauce!

Then, I went for the spinach and cheese, which looked like cream of spinach. It contained chilies and had a similar texture to all of the other cheesy dishes. They all have different flavors, though. The tripe was my favorite, though. I love organ meat, so I got another order of it!

What a meal! Between the spicy and numbing Bhutanese food and my experience hiking to the Buddhist monastery, this was shaping up to be another incredible day in Bhutan!

I hope you liked coming with me to have exotic Bhutanese food and going on a hike to a Buddhist monastery in Thimphu, Bhutan! If you did, please give this video a thumbs up and leave a comment below. Also, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and click the notification bell so you don’t miss any of my travel/food adventures around the world! 

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