ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ten tips for eating healthy in Thimphu

The Bhutanese diet is changing rapidly, and mostly for the bad. The causes and effects (most of which are not specific to Bhutan) have been discussed extensively elsewhere. But with some attention to detail, it's still possible to manage to eat well. Here are tips on eating healthy in Thimphu. Many apply, with some adaptation, also outside of Thimphu. I would like to thank Dr. Thimmaiah for sharing his vast amount of knowledge and for being the inspiration for many of these tips.
  1. Produce: When shopping for fruits and vegetables, start your shopping in the sabzi bazaar's top floor, as that's where the seasonal local produce is sold. In addition to supporting local farmers, vegetables will be fresher, more nutritious and with lesser quantities of chemicals. Some of the local produce is organic. Most vegetables on the ground floor are imported from India.
  2. Milk: Avoid Amul Taaza and other UHT milk. Fresh milk is available around town. Find a reliable source (you can try the dairy shop in Hong Kong market). Instead of boiling the milk (which changes its taste and destroys many of the nutrients) get a good food thermometer and try pasteurization.
  3. Salt: Go easy on the salt shaker. Bhutanese dishes tend to be extremely sodium-heavy. Some experts suspect this is the main reason for the surge in kidney-related diseases in the Kingdom. When eating out, ask the chef to cook with zero salt, and then add to taste.
  4. Datsi: When preparing datsis, use the fresh local cheese over processed cheese. The taste is different, but just check the ingredient list on Amul Cheese and you'll quickly understand why. 
  5. Packaged food: Most packaged food from India is loaded with various additives as well as trans fats. If you insist on packaged food, get the chocolates, biscuits, crackers, and noodles which are imported from Thailand or Malaysia.
  6. Bread: Rotis (aka chapatis, phulkas) are made from wholemeal flour and water, nothing else. They are a much healthier choice compared to the white sliced bread that you can find around town.
  7. Rice: When offered a choice, opt for the local aromatic red rice and cherish the amazingly low local price compared to the US price...
  8. Sweets and snacks: Try to avoid packaged junk food. Find healthier alternatives. Look for copra pieces in many small shops (Nu 1). Chugo is great if you're into smoked cheese and your teeth are in good shape. Sugar cane is often available in the market. Apples and bananas are incredible in season. Or prepare your own trail mix with a mix of almonds, cashew nuts, raisins, and fresh walnuts.
  9. Oils: There's a great selection of heart-healthy vegetable cooking oils around town, such as mustard oil, sesame oil, rice-bran oil and olive oil. Experiment and enjoy the variety!
  10. Local treats: Enjoy the fabulous local stuff. Bhumtang cheeses, incredible mushrooms, local confitures and honey, Sonam's swiss-style ice cream, fresh tofu (available at Sharyang's), local soft-shell walnuts, unfiltered Red Panda beer and a sip of ara from time to time. Did we forget anything? Let us know.

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