We try Bhutan’s fiery national dish at an off-the-beaten-track restaurant in Tokyo.

Bhutan, the small South Asian country snuggled between India and Tibet at the foot of the Himalayas, may be best known for pioneering the use of happiness as a measure of national development. In the country’s 2015 Gross National Happiness survey, over 90 percent of respondents said they were happy.

Now, the GNH survey takes all kinds of different factors into account, from ecological diversity to education, but we think we may have discovered another secret to their widespread well-being: an addictive national dish called datshi featuring two of the most delicious things in the world, cheese and super spicy chilies.

We tried this tasty treat at Calms, a little restaurant in Tokyo’s Yoyogi-Uehara neighborhood. Taking its name and much of the decor from the previous occupant, a teeny bar, Calms serves up just datshi and just at lunchtime, but it is a culinary treat heat-seeking visitors and locals will want to squeeze in between rounds of wasabi-laden sushi and and Kara Mucho potato chips.

You could almost walk right by Calms, as it doesn’t really scream “restaurant,” but the big glass windows do offer a sunny spot to watch the neighborhood comings and goings. Inside, you can sit at one of three small tables or at the counter to watch your enthusiastic chef at work. He does a pretty amazing job of cooking in a tiny space where even mixing drinks was probably a tight squeeze.

The datshi comes in four varieties: potato, tomato, mushroom or pork. Then you can choose a variety of different add-ins, which the owner has thoughtfully written in English on the short menu, including a delightful mistranslation of オクラ(okura) as “sorcery”. Magically delicious!

I opted for the potato version with added tomatoes and spinach because I want to grow up big and strong like Popeye. Also, yum!

The first thing you notice when it’s delivered is the spicy aroma and the whopping chunk of chili on top. And it was far from the only one. My bowl had a good couple of chilies worth of green and red slices with a taste and heat similar to a serrano.

For those that like even more fire, there’s a dab of chili paste already on the lovely wood plate, but I found the datshi was plenty hot as it was. One bite and my nose started running and my brow beaded up. Just the way I like it!

Hearing it described as a cheese stew, I was expecting something like a fondue, but datshi isn’t thick at all. It’s about the consistency of a Thai curry, though it does have an underlying umami flavor that is definitely cheesy. The portion might seem a bit small if you have a big appetite, but the bowl is really stuffed with veggies and you can have as many refills of rice as you like, making it a healthy and filling lunch.

I left Calms mouth tingling, full and happy, thinking I could be quite content eating datshi every day. Those Bhutanese are sure on to something…

For more exciting restaurant options in Tokyo, check out our review of a meal that could kill you.

Restaurant information
Calms / カームス
Address: 1-18-7 Uehara, Shibuya, Tokyo
Open: 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

H/T: Japan Times
Photos: ©SoraNews24