1 cup Bhutanese red rice—you can also use any other nubby rice, preferably whole grain, like French Camargue.
3 tablespoons oil, butter, or ghee— butter is the best, but it’s expensive in Bhutan, so many use cheap oil and round out the taste with a teaspoon of butter at the end.
1/2 cup of cheese cut into pea-sized pieces—generally a dried Bhutanese cheese like chugo, soaked overnight so it’s chewy. Otherwise try medium-to-mild farmer’s cheese that won’t melt. Feta can work. The idea is to have little chewy bits floating in the porridge.
Salt to taste
A dash of chili powder
Thengay, otherwise known as Szechuan pepper
1 tablespoon of crushed ginger or 1/2 tablespoon of garlic
Cilantro or spring onions
Make the garnish after you’ve finished with the base so that the ingredients retain their fragrance. The chili, thengay, and ginger are essential, but the rest are optional and can be added to taste.
Cook rice thoroughly with extra water. You can use leftover rice, but it’s not as tasty. put into an earthenware pot over an open fire (or any old pot on your stove). Add the butter and salt, then stir in enough water to make it soupy. Use a polished branch to blend well (or just use a blender). Add the cheese and cook for about 15 minutes. Don’t let it dry out; keep adding water so that it has the consistency of gruel. Add thengay, ginger, and a pinch of chili, and let cook for 5 more minutes, but don’t boil after you add these, so that the mash stays fragrant. Thengay is a powerful pepper berry that numbs the tongue. Some people hate it. Use sparingly, just 1 to 3 peppercorns finely ground. if you want to add cilantro, do so at the last minute, then serve. Fetch Grandma from the altar room. Gather the children. Sit in a circle and eat while discussing the harvest. You can serve with tea, but as phunthso says, “Tea is only for people who don’t drinkara [Bhutanese liquor.]”
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