Going to Haa for the Summer Festival? Try these Unique Eats while you’re There
If you’re visiting Haa for the Summer Festival happening on 14th July (Saturday), why not pop by a village homestay to try these unique delicacies of the region?
The Haa Summer Festival is an annual exhibition and celebration of the nomadic lifestyle in Bhutan. Visitors can also explore the region by staying at the local home stays and enjoy the hospitality of the local people of Haa valley. Besides the sightseeing and activities, take some time to explore the local cuisine and discover unique delicacies of the region.
Looking to trying Haa’s local cuisine? Turns out, Hoentey isn’t just the only famous dish coming from Haa. From Chhugo magi (fresh cheese in sweetened butter) to Phillu datsi, a special local cheese quite similar to string cheese – the valley is full of culinary surprises. Although the main town of Haa has a line of few humble restaurants, Haa’s famous regional cuisine is best experienced at a homestay – well we are looking for a homecooked culinary adventure afterall.
Home-cooked Food at a Homestay:
If you’re not sure about restaurants in Haa, try booking your meal at a home stay. From the host family welcoming you to their home, to tasting some of the best home-cooked Bhutanese food, eating at a home stay will change your experience of eating out. Price for a meal set? Nu. 300 per head for tourists and Nu. 200 for locals.
Chhugo Magi (Cottage Cheese cubes in butter)
Chhugo Magi directly translates as cheese mixed in butter and comes pretty close to being the only dessert item on the traditional Bhutanese food menu. Mildly-dried fresh cheese is cut in flat cubes and poured over the heated fresh butter and sugar that’s broiling on the bukhari (traditional wood-burning stove). After a few minutes of moistening the cheese cubes with sugary butter, the Chhugo Magi is ready. The cooked sweet cheese softly disintegrates as you take a bite but be sure you don’t eat too much of it – the heavy butter can be a bit overwhelming after a while.
Fresh River Trout from the Haa Chhu
Although fishing for trout directly from Haa Chhu may not be in the itinerary, you can get a taste of the exquisite local trout cooked by your host family at your homestay. Whether you like it steamed or fried in fresh butter with a sprinkle of lemon, your culinary adventure in Haa is incomplete without a taste of the famous trout from the river of Haa.
One of the most amazing hidden delicacies of Haa is their unique Phillu Cheese. How is it made? Boiled milk is poured into a pot laid with long birch tree twigs that have been stripped of their gritty bark. The milk is swished around the pot for the cream to cover the twigs and left to ferment. For two weeks, newly boiled milk is poured over the birch twigs 3 times a day until the twigs have collected enough creamy residue on its branches. The stringy fermented cheese scraped from the twigs is the resulting Phillu collected in a lid container which is sold for almost Nu. 1000/-. The texture of Phillu cheese is very stringy and bitter. It can be an acquired taste for many but there are also those, especially homegrown Haaps who just can’t get enough of this unique delicacy. We had our Phillu cooked with local red chillies. Yum!
The list wouldn’t be complete without hoentey. This traditional buckwheat dumpling is served mostly during Lomba. Lomba is the new year festival celebrated in the Haa and Paro on the 29th day of the 10th Bhutanese month, and lasts for a week. Hoentey is a sweet buckwheat or refined flour dumpling stuffed with a mixture of turnip leaves, amaranth seeds (zimtse), cottage cheese, butter that is seasoned with chili powder, onion and ginger. You can choose to have your Hoentey steamed or fried depending on the kind of texture you prefer. “Each household has their own recipe for cooking Hoentey, Some even use up to 17 ingredients in their Hoenteys.” says Aum Kinley, a home stay host. Her hoenteys have an extra creamy mixture given by adding three different types of cheese – fresh cottage cheese, processed cheese slices and Phillu cheese.