Last week I traveled with family from Thimphu, the capital to Bumthang , home district of my mother's family. Its a eight to ten hour car trip over winding mountain roads that rise and fall as we cross various mountain passes. ( No tunnels! My mother is fond of saying that Bhutanese go around mountains rather than through them). When I was younger these trips would make me violently car sick and I would spend much of the trip miserable and vomit-y. Even the thought of eating would make me ill. However in the last decade I have been remarkable un-carsick. I am not sure why ( theories are welcome). So apart from the dependably spectacular views I have also been able to enjoy all the culinary delights of a long road trip.
One of the greatest pleasures of travelling in the autumn, when the corn is ready to be harvested, are pop-up corn roasters. Often on a part of the road that seems in the middle of nowhere ( no village or house in sight) someone will make a little fire and sell freshly roasted corn. Nothing is done to the corn beyond pulling off the husk and holding the cob over the burning embers of a fire . We often comment how a little lime and salt run along the cooked cob would make it even more delicious, maybe next year we will remember to carry some.
My parents almost always carry a picnic basket of tea/coffee supplies to help break up the long journey. They will choose a random spot, usually somewhere scenic and sunny and then stop to make coffee and share a snack. This time they choose a lovely little stupa on a hill in the middle of the road and we climbed up to enjoy a little break.
In their more gung-ho days, they packed a picnic lunch too but more recently we have a standard road-side restaurant that we stop at in a tiny town called Dungdung Nessa. It might not look like much but in fact this restaurant is a very popular stop and often we have run into people we know (on the way back for example, it was a cousin headed to Zhemgang for workshop)
The food is very hardy and the servings are generous . You sometimes are even able to get an order of yak meat. You get rice and a side of meat, with some dal and a little bit of green chilli salad. In addition I ordered suja ( butter tea) and an serving of ema-dasthi ( chilli and cheese).
We also had an another unexpected tea break once we were in Bumthang. We had to stop to make a delivery in the one of the first valleys , Chumey, and the people who came to collect the goods brought along a flask of sweet milk tea and snacks for us. They set up at a bus stop.
One of the snacks they brought along was zowa, a sort of roasted rice that you can either eat by the handful or add to your tea for a little crunch.
Aren't all the best road trips really about the food?