DISCOVER BHUTAN: Hoentey, Buckwheat Dumpling from Haa Valley

Located along the western flank of Bhutan, Haa is the smallest district in the Kingdom. Endowed with pristine alpine forest and surrounded by towering Himalayan peaks, Haa is easily one of the most picturesque locations in the country.

Home to several communities of nomadic herders who live in the upper highlands of the valley with their yaks, Haa boasts a unique culture, traditional food, and an arcane way of life. Three towering identical mountains flank the valley called Meri Puensum or Rigsum Gonpo, representing Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig)- the Buddha of compassion, Manjushri (Jampelyang) – the Buddha of wisdom, and Vajrapani (Chana Dorji) – the Buddha of power and victory.

Hoentey is by far the most delectable dish originating from Haa valley. A trip to Haa is incomplete without savoring this local delicacy. Hoentey is a buckwheat dumpling stuffed with an assortment of ingredients that include dried spinach or turnip leaves, cottage cheese, butter, perilla seeds, ginger, and clove garlic.

The significance of Hoentey extends beyond its unique taste; it is deeply intertwined with the local customs and way of life of the Haaps. This delicacy is traditionally prepared during special occasions and festivals, most notably the annual Lomba Festival. Held in the winter months, Lom-ba marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the New Year for the Haaps. During this festival, families gather to cook Hoentey and other traditional dishes, reflecting the community’s gratitude for a bountiful harvest and their hopes for a prosperous year ahead.

The preparation of Hoentey is a meticulous and communal activity that brings families together. The key ingredients include buckwheat flour for the dough and a mixture of turnip greens, spinach, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, onion, and local cheese for the filling.

Here’s a quick process of how to make Hoentey. The buckwheat flour is mixed with water to form a smooth and pliable dough. Buckwheat, known for its nutritional benefits and earthy flavor, gives the dumplings their distinctive taste and texture.

The filling is a flavorful mixture of finely chopped turnip greens, spinach, and mushrooms, sautéed with garlic, ginger, and onions. Local Bhutanese cheese, which is crumbly and slightly tangy, is then mixed in, adding a rich and creamy element to the filling. Small portions of the dough are rolled out into thin circles. A spoonful of the filling is placed in the center of each circle, which is then folded over and sealed, forming a half-moon shape. The edges are crimped to ensure the dumpling stays intact during cooking.

Traditionally, Hoentey is steamed until the dough is cooked through and the filling is hot and aromatic. The steaming process helps retain the nutritional value of the ingredients and enhances the natural flavors of the filling.

The preparation and celebration of Hoen-tey during the Lomba Festival highlight the deep-rooted values of gratitude, unity, and prosperity that define the Haaps’ way of life. For those who seek to explore Bhutan’s culinary and cultural treasures, Hoentey from Haa Valley is an unforgettable experience.

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