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Sourdough Bread: The Rising New Taste in Town


There is an art to making bread, and this young aspiring restauranteur is patiently learning to master this culinary skill.

photos by PemC

Jamsel Tshering Gyaltshen decided to choose a future in the food industry after having graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York.  He soon gathered professional experience after working at the Cafe Boulud and Mission Chinese Food in New York, Tipping Club in Singapore and at Taj Tashi and Amankora in Bhutan.

“Here in Bhutan, everything is very new when it comes to food so there’s a lot you can do. Bhutanese ingredients and dishes especially, I believe, have a lot of untapped potential and with the growing food scene and more and more inspiring and passionate cooks slowly coming into light – there’s a lot to look forward to,” says Jamsel. “Starting a restaurant is something I’ve always wanted ever since I pursued this field and it’s exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. But to see my goals coming to fruition is an unparalleled feeling.”

The 25 year old has his eyes set on opening his own pizzeria in Thimphu in 2019. At the moment, he runs a home-based sour dough bread-making business named Project Zaa on instagram which makes healthy naturally leavened bread.  “Working with bread and dough is something I never imagined I would end up doing in my culinary career, being mostly trained and taught in old school French technique and then moving on to more Asian centric cooking. Strangely enough, I was introduced to the concept of working with dough by using levin (a sourdough starter which is a mixture of water and flour that has been converted into a leavening agent through the process of fermentation) through a Chinese restaurant in NYC where I made naturally leavened pizza and flatbreads.” It is this very technique that makes sourdough bread different from the commercial breads in town that are often baked with commercial yeast.

“It’s really cool being able to work with something like levain,” says Jamsel. “It’s alive and kind of has its own personality. It breathes and you have to tend to it almost everyday, feeding it and making sure it doesn’t die. And if you do this well, it can last you forever. Literally!”

Jamsel describes working on the entire meticulous process as an experience connecting him to a time before commercial yeast was available, “and that is pretty amazing.”

He admits that the process is slow and sometimes painstaking. “Just when you think you’ve got the entire process down, it’ll throw you a curve ball and you have to take a step back and re-evaluate almost everything you thought you were doing right. It’s a long process but you learn so much and as strange as it sounds, you create this bond with the levain and the dough, that helps me strive to get better at each day.”

To know more about Jamsel’s business, follow @project_zaa on instagram.

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