A festival of local food

Bhutanese foods have often received cursory remarks – as either being too spicy or unpalatable to international taste. This may ostensibly change with the Bhutan International Food Festival (BIFF), scheduled to take place at the Clock Tower Square in Thimphu from February 19-22 this year.

The food festival, an event running as part of the first annual Bhutan International Festival (BhIF) and organized by Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan (HRAB), will see a gamut of interesting local dishes for Bhutanese crowds as well as new fusion dishes created by renowned international chefs by fusing or combining Bhutanese cuisine with elements of other different culinary traditions.

Around 20 participants, comprising the high-class and prestigious hotels like TashiTaj and Le Meridien Thimphu to small hotels and restaurants mostly based in Thimphu and international chefs, will have food stalls at the Clock Tower Square during the four-day food festival. Tents would also be pitched with provision for tables and chairs, where people visiting the festival could sit and taste the delicacies that would be on the offer.

The food festival, meanwhile, will also be graced by the arrival of star chef team Daniel Mattern and Roxana Jullapat of Cooks County, the famous restaurant among the high-class and elites in Los Angeles. The couple is renowned and frequently featured for their works in food magazines and

blogs globally. The chef couple will do some background research on Bhutanese foods and present their interpretation of what Bhutanese foods could look like during the food festival. They will also conduct master class workshops for interested local chefs and cooks in Thimphu.

The food festival, according to HRAB, is a part of HRAB’s undertaking to celebrate the 60th Birth Anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, and 35th Birth Anniversary of His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck on February 21 this year.

HRAB is a federation of hotels and restaurants from all over Bhutan. Members range from restaurants to small family-owned properties to major convention hotels. It is a non-profit, apolitical, mutual benefit organization formed in September 2007 by a group of enthusiastic hoteliers.

BhIF, meanwhile, is a brand new collaborative arts festival in Bhutan. It’s a non-profit annual event – working to build a new vehicle for the ongoing funding of creative arts in Bhutan.

The chairman of HRAB said the food festival has been packaged so that it renders a platform for Bhutanese cuisine to be highlighted, showcased and developed into an international

cuisine or into something at par with other international cuisines. “That’s the objective of HRAB,” he added.

“We hope that the restaurants and hotels would make foods that are interesting for Bhutanese crowds and at the same time showcase Bhutanese fusion foods,” the HRAB’s chairman said.

“While this is an initial step, we are hoping to make this a long-term process to evolve and develop Bhutanese cuisine. The hope is, in due time, Bhutanese cuisine is presented like other cuisines with international standards,” he added.

“HRAB is happy that Daniel and Roxana are participating in the food festival and we are thankful their expenses are being sponsored by Le Meridien Thimphu,” the HRAB’s chairman said. “Food is just not about cooking and serving. Cooking is an art. It’s also about presentation. It is how we bring our different cultures together.”

“They (the chef couple) will mostly deal with the fusion aspects of Bhutanese foods. Cooking classes with techniques and dishes from Bhutan and other neighboring countries would be explored to come up with wild new recipes. Bhutanese fusion foods will combine Bhutanese cuisine with various cuisines of other countries,” said an organizer of the food festival.




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