Thursday, April 2, 2015

BHUTANESE CUISINE - TSIDO PA

This article is long overdue, and I want to say sorry to one of my dear friends who have been asking me to do this article. So today I am going to do another favorite of us Bhutanese and as the title suggests, it’s called Tsido pa. Tsido means ribs, so basically it means ribs meat.
It is actually pretty easy to make, nonetheless I will help you first timers make this easy but delicious dish. The ingredients you will need are ribs (obviously), chilies, onion, tomatoes, cooking oil, garlic, ginger and optional ingredients are spring onions and spinach. I love spinach so my recipe has spinach in it
1.      Chop the ribs into desired pieces. (my case I have it chopped to approximately 5cms) you can chop it however you want
2.      In a pressure cook heat cooking oil and fry chopped onions, garlic, tomatoes. And once they start to brown, fry the chopped ribs and season it with half a tablespoon of salt.
3.      After frying the ribs for few mins (2-3 mins) add a small cup of water and cover it with the lid and cook it until the cooker blows 7-8 whistles.
4.      Let all the pressure release from the cooker and place it back on the stove.
5.      Add spinach, spring onion and chilies (either fresh or dried chilies) and add salt on the chilies
6.    Cook until all the water dries and the spinach is cooked
7.      Best served with red rice 
Like I always say the amount of ingredients you use is based upon your taste buds so use the ingredients accordingly. My case I love it when my meat is hot so I use a lot of chilies and salt to season it well.
And another important thing that you should make a note is the amount of water you use and the time you cook depends on the amount of your ribs. If you have lesser ribs you add little water, just enough to cook the meat, we don’t want ribs soup. 
A trick I usually follow is I listen to the whistles, if the whistles starts blowing one after another with not much time gap, it probably means the water inside has dried up so you might wanna check your water because you don’t wanna burn your ribs.
I hope you will all try making it and also enjoy making it. Good luck!

Friday, September 5, 2014

BHUTANESE RELIGIOUS PRACTISE - NYUNG-NEY

Hi all, I know it’s been long and I got no other excuse than to say I was caught up…haha. Actually I wanted to do an article on something else but I got more excited to post an article on Nyung-ney. So I had to write about it J
Nyung-ney is a religious practice; it’s a form of fasting, that Buddhist practice. I am not a monk nor a super spiritual person so I can’t give you detailed information about Nyung-ney, but I will share what I know and the experience I had during this spiritual journey. If I am to describe Nyung-ney in one word it would be “liberation” honest to God, that’s the feeling I get after I am done with Nyung-ney. Now you know why I am so keen on writing an article about it.
Statue of Chenrizi
Nyung-ney is basically a cleansing process; it’s for wiping your slate clean of all your sins and wrong doings (both physical and mental). It is focused on Chenrizi (God of Compassion or God with thousand Hands and Eyes). You pray for the end of sufferings of all sentient beings and dead suffering in hell. It is a set of 2 days. So far I have done 4 sets (8 days). 2 sets was done 2 years back in Ramthangkha, Paro and the other 2 set was done just few days back here in Kabisa, Thimphu. These are usually held in Lhakhangs and Goenpas. I will be doing one more set coming weekend in Kabisa.
Since it was during the break, most people were outside
Nyung-ney is organized by Lhakhangs, Goenpas and Shedras (monastic school) upon request from common people. Families volunteer to be the patron of such events, which means they take care of the fooding, tea and snacks for all the participants. They also give Gyep (money offering) for all the participants at the end of each set of Nyung-ney (of course the amount is not fixed, the
 patrons give depending on how much they can afford), besides it’s not about the money, for that day the participants are like monks and nuns (who avoids make-up, ornaments, sex, alcohol and actually live like a monk or a nun until the Nyung-ney is over) who are saying prayers which will benefit the patron so it’s like an offering.  The patron of Nyung-ney is believed to be benefited a lot, that’s why most people rush to volunteer for Nyung-ney. The number of participants is never restricted; they welcome as many participants as possible. Regarding the lodging, men and women are kept in separate halls and we carry our own sleeping mattress and blankets.
Participants in the Lhakhang hall
Anyways, now to speak about the 2 days in a Nyung-ney set, the first day is called ┼ŻAM, throughout the day we say a set of Nyung-ney prayers: once early morning (starts around 4:30-5:00 am), once after the breakfast (around 8:00-8:30 am) and once after lunch (1:30-2:00 pm). Each set of prayers has a section where you have to do prostrates and I would say the minimum number of prostrates you will be doing will come up to 100 (unless you are cheating the whole time) and if you are doing sincerely you will easily do up to 300 prostrates in each set. And in the evening depending on the abbot, there are different evening prayers. And later at night choe-shay (which means explanations on various religious texts and even quarries if you have) you can also say preaching. On this day lunch is your last meal but you can have tea and water until at night.
The second day is called NGAA (which means not speaking) and it is an important day: you are not allowed to eat, drink and even talk. You can only say your prayers. The routine is same like the previous day except without the food, drinks and the talks. So during the breaks, participants usually recite prayers (om mani padme hung, since it’s the mantra of Chenrizi) or any other prayers if you want. And people usually go to bed early because honestly, it is pretty exhausting especially since you have to do approximately 1000 prostrates in a day with an empty stomach.
You end the fasting only on the next day after getting blessings from the abbot and drinking the holy water. And if you wish to continue next set of Nyung-ney, you just continue with the rest of the participants with the prayers, if not you just end your Nyung-ney with the holy water. I don’t have much idea but from what I understand, if you can do 8 sets of Nyung-ney (i.e. 16 days) it’s the most beneficial. You will have all your sins cleared and end a lot of sufferings in the Samsara.
Picture collage of some selfies during Zam
Now if I put in some of my own thoughts, I feel like (please note that this is my personal view)  Nyung-ney is basically a allusion of what it is to like to be in a hell, you don’t get to eat, you don’t get to drink and you don’t have anyone to talk to. And at times like that you seek refuge in God of Compassion, praying for the end of your suffering in hell. So I guess it makes sense.
All I can say is, the first time I did Nyung-ney; it was so tiring and difficult too. But at the end of the Nyung-ney the feeling you get is so awesome. I fell in love with this spiritual task from the very first set of Nyung-ney I did. So I try to do it whenever I can. The current Nyung-ney in Kabisa is actually 8 set Nyung-ney, but since I don’t have enough leave from work, I am attending it in bits and pieces (aiming the weekends), so I will be able to attend only 3 sets L But I shall do it every chance I get in the future. It is believed that one set of Nyung-ney lessens 4000 eons of sufferings in the Samsara…so you can imagine the benefits of Nyung-ney.
For those who are interested to read in detail about practicing Nyung-ney, I have a friend who has a book on it, I can get a softcopy of it and mail it to you (just leave your email ID on the comment section) or if you have any quarries I can always get it answered (of course after consultation with someone who knows better…haha)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

BHUTANESE CUISINE - JAJU

Hi guys, I am so sorry for not updating the blog in a while but out was out of town for official work and then I was too tired to immediately jump back into blogging so took some time off from blogging. Anyways now that I am back I wanted to do another Bhutanese Cuisine and its called JAJU. It’s a really simple dish which is served in any occasion. Basically jaju in Dzongkha means “veg” and generally it means veg soup. It can be made using various key ingredients like sea weed, pumpkin and spinach. 
The one I am going to explain here is sea-weed jaju but again, the process for any kind of jaju is similar. In fact sea-weed and spinach jaju has the same process. Anyways I will start off with the steps of preparing the jaju:
1.      Wash your sea-weed (or spinach) thoroughly and mince it
2.      Place it in a cooking pot with water, oil, salt, red chili powder (as usual, the quantity to your liking)
3.      You can add a cup or two of milk if you want, this is basically to balance the taste and also to give this nice creamy color and texture to the soup
4.      Add feta cheese (around 50 grams if the soup is for a group of four  to six people OR any amount you want) to the mixture and boil it like you boil any other soup
5.      Taste if the salt is enough and “voila” it’s done
Believe it or not guys, that’s it. I told you, it’s pretty simple and easy not to forget it’s really tasty, I personally really like it. I hope you guys will like it too. Enjoy your jaju.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

BHUTANESE CUISINE - SUJA

Today I am going to write an article on Bhutanese famous tea - suja. People call this tea, butter tea which is not wrong but if you break the word suja it means su=churn and ja=tea. In the olden days Bhutanese used to be a large joint and extended family and suja was made using huge pot and almost 0.5 meter tall churner called the “Ja-su” . The churning was basically to melt the butter and thoroughly mix the butter in the tea. But these days u hardly see the churner anymore, most people use blenders even in the villages since these days there are only few members in the family.
Anyways, in this article I will help you make suja and it is actually quite simple. Plus I will also teach you a cheater’s way of making a suja. First we will go with the original suja. You will need tea leaves and it’s not the one we use to make milk tea…it is a little different and I am not sure if it is available everywhere. There are two types of tea leaves, one is processed and we get it for sale in the market and the other one is plain tea leaves (and I am really sorry because I don’t know the name of the tree). You can either use the processed tea leaves alone or mix the two. These tea leaves are really strong and give you a really bitter taste. But let me not freak you out now and go step wise.
Boil it, strain it and dilute it
(L)Processed & (R) Plain Tea leaves and soda 
I am using  unsalted butter
  1.   Take a small pot and boil the tea leaves (I am not sure of the ratio but this is basically to get the juice of the leaves so use your guess and boil it) with a pinch of soda.
   2.      Simmer the heat and let the tea boil, try to get as much taste and color from the leaves.
    3.      Strain the juice into another container and add hot water to dilute the juice you extracted (I would say the diluted color should be almost like a diluted raspberry juice ^_^).
  4.      Add butter and salt to your liking and a tea spoon of milk powder (to balance the color of the tea) the blend it until the tea is a little foamy
  5.      Suja is ready to be served.
Final look of "ready to drink" suja 
Krematop powder
Now this next technique is to make suja the cheater’s way… (lol) and I have no idea who thought of it, I saw my mother make it and she drinks it this way because she is not allowed too much butter and in this technique you can do away with the butter. But you will need “Krematop” it is a non-dairy creamer, this is actually used to make coffee. I have only used krematop but using this logic, I am sure any non-dairy creamer will do the trick. Anyways to go on with the steps:
Repeat step 1 till 3 from the previous method and add the non-dairy creamer and salt to the tea to your liking…believe it or not it gives the same taste and looks. Only few people notice the difference. Krematop has this buttery taste to it so it substitutes butter really well. The justice is done and it is like no compromise is made…in fact this easy suja is taken by most people who loves suja but can’t take butter for health reasons. It is like a rescue suja for them…haha
Anyways I hope you guys will be able to make suja easily hence forth…enjoy the tasty suja dear readers ^_^

Thursday, April 17, 2014

BHUTAN'S NATIONAL DRESS

Dear all, today I am going to do an article which I should have covered way before. But I kinda felt like it was way too basic for me to touch. But someone asked me to cover it and I realized for someone who has very little idea about Bhutan…this is kinda interesting topic. So this article is especially for the   non-Bhutanese readers. I hope you will find this article interesting because it is about my national dress-Gho (for male) and Kira (for female)
My niece and nephew's school concert



I will start off with Gho first. Many foreigners call it the “skirt” and it’s not wrong, it kinda looks like a skirt, only that it’s worn by men in Bhutan and not by women. Both Gho n Kira are stitched…the materials are either hand-woven or from a ready-made cloth piece. 

           I am also going to cover on “how to wear a gho?” From the above pictures you can’t quite see but let me tell you, gho is something like a super-oversized overcoat. It can completely wrap you almost twice. I have uploaded some pictures so you can see how to wear a gho. And the model here is my 12 years old nephew getting ready for his school. Since he is a little young, I help him wear the gho.
And before I start off with how to wear a gho, I will tell you that it’s not only a gho that’s required. You require a gho, a tego (inner most wear or else gong and lagay is the other option) and a kayra (hand-woven belt). I just realized that describing in words how to wear gho and kira is going to be difficult so I will do pictorial description and a little explaining if required. If you don’t get it, you can always leave a comment and I will try to explain it better.
1.      Wear your gho like you would wear your over coat.
2.      Put the right-hand side of the gho inside the left hand side of the gho (right in the mid) and hold it from outside with your left hand.
3.      Now with your right hand, hold the left hand side of the gho, and lift both the sides like a belt-less skirt.
4.      Slowly lift both the hands such that the edge of the gho in on your knees
5.      Take both sides of the gho to your behind and adjust the gho to have a clean look
6.      Using kayra tighten your waist
7.      Make final adjustments which includes making your gong and lagay (lagay is only one neat fold) as show in the last two pictures, the collar is called the gong and the fold on the wrist is called as lagay
This is how your gho should look at the end.
ps: the last picture is not of his school unifrom, he was getting late so he had to rush to school...lol, so I am using some of his other pictures wearing gho.

And to go on with how to wear a kira, first of all you need: wonju (inner most wear), kira, tego (outer most wear and it’s not the same as gho’s tego, but looks similar) and finally kayra. Kira is basically a large sheet of cloth and like gho, kira is also available in both hand-woven or ready-made materials. In case of kira…there is full-kira and half-kira. People hardly wear full kira these days, most people wear half kira. 
Me and my bestie during our convocation
In this picture, if you look closely, my bestie (in the pink) is wearing a half-kira and I (in the green) am wearing a full kira. My kira is till my chest where as my friend's is till waist.
And I dont think it's important for me to cover on how to wear a full-kira because all the Bhutanese know how to wear it and Non-Bhutanese find half-kira more comfortable and easy to wear.
Besides, these days you get easy to wear half-kiras, all you have to do is place some hooks in the right place and it's done, as easy as said 






And now the following pictures will show you how to wear a half-kira. 



The white one is wonju and as you can see, kiras are really long, must me more than two meters, not really sure though, because we usually buy arleady-stitched kiras ^_^
1.      Wrap yourself with the kira and place the left hand side of the edge on your waist.
2.      Continue wrapping yourself such that the other end of the kira is on your right side of the waist.
3.      Now make a nice fold in the front and that fold should meet the side of the kira on the right side of your waist
4.      Holding these two sides together, tighten your waist using Kayra. Usually half-kira will have long extra strand of cloth, that’s used instead of Kayra/belt, but I prefer using Kayra so that’s why in the picture you see me using Kayra.
Final look
5.      And finally you wear your tego and make a nice wonju gong (the collar) and wrist fold (we don’t say lagay here, lagay is only for males it’s called wonju lakha)
Taken after National Day celebration 

And finally the shawl look alike that Bhutanese men wear is called Kabney. Different color of the kabeny signifies different post in the kingdom for male. And the link here will best explain it  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabney
Likewise women wear Rachu…it looks like a bigger version of Kayra…women wear it on their left shoulder leaving the fringes on the front. The color code for the Rachu for the different post of females in the kingdom is similar to that of male, except for the saffron color. Saffron is only for the King and the chief abbot of the country. And for the commoner, the color of Rachu is not white but colorful prints…mostly red with flower prints but these days you get to see varieties of patterns in different colors.
My bestie and her hubby

Here is a picture of my friend and her husband, she is wearing kira with rachu and he is wearing gho with kabney. Kabney and rachu are not a regular wear, we wear it in Dzongs, Monastries, Lhakhangs (Temple) and government offices. 





My aunt, adopted brother and mum
 This picture in the right was taken when we were in Punakha Dzong for an offering. My aunt and mum being a commoner are wearing ordinary rachu. But you will notice that my brother is not wearing a gho or kabney, that because he is a Buddhist monk and they have their own attire. A robe and kabney. I dont know much about their attire so cant really write on it. But we call it "Sangay gi Namza" meaning Buddha's attire. 

Anyways I really hope you guys enjoyed this article as much as I enjoyed writing it for you guys (not to forget the photo session I had with my nephew) :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

BHUTANESE RITUAL - TSHO-BHUM


Offerings
Hey guys! Sorry for not updating in such a long time, and I got no excuse…so I am hoping a sorry would suffice J. Anyways, today I want to do an article on “tsho-bhum”. It’s a Bhutanese ritual that’s of great deal. Tsho-Bhum basically means one lakh offering and prayers. It helps you gain luck in both this life and the next life. It takes place for days even weeks sometimes. But the one we had was for almost four days, one day for the preparations and next three days of reciting prayers in an attempt to recite it one lakh times.
A lot of goods like snacks, fruits, rice and so many items are offered in the alter and decorated since that is one of the most important offerings of this Tsho-Bhum.
We had around seven people reading the prayers...we usually get monks but this 
 but this time we had a monks and villagers who know how to read the prayers. The aim was to get those prayers read, so it was okie to have anyone who could read it. 
It almost looks like annual ritual that most Bhutanese have, because the Chhops (people reading the prayers) used dungchen, lingm, ngga and rim (you can call it religious instruments...lol) because honestly I dont think they have English translation. Anyways it’s loud and takes all your attention. 
My nephews and aunt chanting prayers


It’s a nice liberating feeling because for three days we chanted our prayers, did prostrates and made many offerings. Whenever I attend religious rituals, I feel like its cleansing me. I hope you get to feel what I felt through these images.

The following pictures are just an additional write up on the famous Bhutanese butter lamps; I helped preparing for it so I captured the process.

1. Wash the the containers and wipe them clean. 

2. Make small strands of thread using cotton. It needs to be clean since its an offering made to God (sorry I didn't show the picture of how that thread is made). Now we have to fit those strand of tread into each container (each container has a tiny hole to fit the thread in)

3. Arrange all the containers in a line and start filling them up melted butter. But to be honest butter lamps are offered on special occasions or rituals, usually hydrogenated vegetable oil is melted and used.

4. We light all the lamps during the ritual and it’s a pretty sight  J
Beautiful Butter Lamps offered 




Monday, December 2, 2013

GREEN BUILDING

Today I am going to write about “Bhutan Green Building Design Guidelines” that is being published by one of the Divisions in my office. The reason why I am going to discuss this here in my blog is because I am a huge supporter of Sustainability (one of the pillars of GNH) and Green Design. I want to spread this knowledge to as many people as possible so I thought why not start from my blog.
To start off, I think it’s safe to say that green buildings are still a little immature in my country; people are still learning about it and exploring the concept. And anything new is always scrutinized hard, but that’s really normal I guess. I am really hoping I can help people learn more about green building or atleast make them wanna research on it. But before I start writing I want to let all of the readers know that this is my idea and thoughts about green buildings, doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to look at green buildings (I am no expert on green buildings).
The first thing I want to clear is, “rammed earth buildings are green buildings but green buildings are not rammed earth” this one is quite tricky (I know because I was confused too). There are similar misconceptions about energy efficient building and green building. Green building is basically about “thinking holistically”
The Environmental Protection Agency of the US states that: “Green building is the process of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a buildings life cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.”
And that pretty much sums everything up, it clearly means green building simply means greener way, which includes what materials you are using while constructions, how you are using it and why you are using it. It can also be as simple as how you orient your structure using the nature (position of the sun and direction of the winds). But I would suggest you all to google more on it for better information: I will suggest few terms here and please google it J
1.      Passive solar design
2.      Rain/Storm water harvesting
3.      Green roofs
4.      Insulation
5.      Rammed earth buildings
6.      Bottle house/ Earth-bag house
Some of these are really cheap green buildings, worth looking at. Here are the pictures of few
http://www.iatcan.org/photos_enlarged/Earthbag_house.JPG 



I really hope to see all the Bhutanese building green buildings and keep spreading the knowledge, if you implant even the tiniest idea about green building, then you should know that the job is well done J