A Group Of Bowls With Food In It

Raising The Game for Modern Bhutanese Cuisine


Conversation 5 minute read

Chef Tshering Lhaden has returned to COMO Uma Bhutan after three years as Head Chef of COMO Cuisine Dempsey in Singapore. Here, we ask her about her influences — and why Bhutanese food is a culinary experience like no other.

A Man Holding A Basket

What parts of Bhutan’s culture and cuisine have you taken with you throughout your work with COMO?

Wherever I am in the world, I’m always very proud to say that I’m Bhutanese. Cooking is my favourite way to share my culture with others — ‘Ema Datshi’ (chillies and cheese), ‘Ezay’ (chilli sambal), ‘Momos’ (dumplings), ‘Thotsay’ (Bhutanese fried rice) and so on. But my favourite dish to make is an authentic beef curry. The Bhutanese use organic dried chillies, balancing the heat with tomatoes, garlic and onions. Unlike many Himalayan curries, there are no Masala spices. While I was at COMO Dempsey in Singapore, I launched a Bhutanese food festival and cooking classes, so home never felt too far away.

Besides Bhutanese dishes, what is your favourite cuisine?

I love Thai food because it offers layers of intricate flavour. There’s such an appealing balance between spiciness, sourness, sweetness and umami. The seafood in particular is out of this world. I also love Italian cuisine because of its simplicity. There’s a purity to the flavours, derived from the freshness of the ingredients used, like vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh herbs and artisanal cheeses.  

A Person Standing Next To A Tree With A Basket Of Nuts

What is Bhutan’s most unique ingredient to cook with?

‘Shur Kam’ are Bhutanese organic white-blanched sun dried chillies. I often make a special ‘Shur Kam Datshi’, or cook them with meat and glass noodles. Lots of people have never seen a white chilli before, and they assume it won’t be spicy — that is until they have a taste of it! ‘Naki’, or fiddlehead ferns, are also great fun to cook with; I like to add them to a Datshi, or stir-fry them. 

How would you describe your cooking style?

Bhutanese-Western fusion with a twist. I use interesting and high-quality produce to create simple, clean dishes, made with passion. 

In Singapore, you worked directly with COMO Group’s Executive Chef, Daniel Moran. What did you learn about the philosophy of cooking?

Chef Daniel has taught me the importance of keeping the cooking process simple: less is always more. He’s also reinforced the value of cooking from the heart. Pride and passion are the core of good food — along with the freshest ingredients possible. 

A Group Of Green And Gold Snakes
A Person Pouring A Liquid Into A Pot
A Bowl Of Food On A Wood Surface
A Group Of Tomatoes

What other influences will you be bringing back to Bhutan with you?

I’m excited to bring a touch of the rest of the world to Bhutan: I’ll be whipping up Caribbean-inspired ceviches and jerk-spiced meats, along with Maldivian curries and sambals.  

What is the seasonal potential of Bhutanese cuisine?

Freshness of produce is key. I want to use farm-to-table ingredients wherever possible and play to the harvest. So many Bhutanese regions and villages have unique meats, vegetables, mushrooms and cheeses at different times of the year — I want to find ways to use the best of all of them. My star ingredient is our organic chillies; they’ll be present in my menus year-round. In fact, we’ve been working with local farmers to plant and harvest chilli and rice during the last two years, so the larder is overflowing! 

What is it about Bhutan that draws you home?

Bhutan is my homeland. It is the Bhutanese people, culture and landscape that have shaped who I am as a person. With the vision of His Majesty, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Bhutan is a Kingdom that puts its people first. That’s pretty special. I want to be part of that narrative, and honour and showcase the farmers whose produce I’ve missed so much while living in Singapore. To work with what they grow — that is what I am most looking forward to with this return. 

A House In The Woods

Bhutan is my homeland. It is the Bhutanese people, culture and landscape that have shaped who I am as a person. With the vision of His Majesty, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Bhutan is a Kingdom that puts its people first.

A Large Green Landscape With Buildings And Mountains In The Background

Bukhari is our award winning restaurant at COMO Uma Paro and COMO Uma Punakha. Menus are based on seasonal, local produce sourced by chef Tshering Lhaden, who delivers both Bhutanese and international dishes with strong flavours and finesse. Book your table now.

W. COMO Uma Punakha   |   E. res.uma.bhutan@comohotels.com   |   T. +975 2 584688

W. COMO Uma Paro   |   E. res.uma.bhutan@comohotels.com   |   T. +975 8 271597