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Bhutan Tomza Rice Packet @ Chuniding Food in Thimphu

My first meal in Bhutan was a traditional rice bundle known as tomza which was very delicious and filling 😁 It is often described as a Bhutanese lunch box or bento. However, in form, it looks like a large packet of nasi lemak (but otherwise very different).

It is a huge rice bundle with a choice of side dishes bundled in a banana leaf, then aluminium foil to keep it warm, and a piece of thin cloth to hold it together tightly.

There is always plenty of boiled rice and there are many choices of side dishes (what goes into each tomza depends on personal preference).

Vegetarian pack with spicy radish, chili, chili cheese (ema datshi) and chili paste.

Bhutanese eat tomza as a form of convenience food especially when travelling.

The Bhutanese eat this with hands which is the best way.

Others eat it with fork and spoon.

My first tomza.

On top of a huge mound of rice, I had stir fried spinach, air dried beef, air dried pork belly (si kam paa), dried chili and chili cheese (ema datshi, the national dish).

The rice is roundish shaped like barley, cooked till soft, not too starchy, not too sweet, and infused with flavours from grease and sauce of the various ingredients / side dishes.

Air dried pork belly or si kam paa. The thick fat has the texture of candied winter melon. Crunchy and juicy inside. But, it tastes spicy savoury sweet as the slice of air dried pork is cooked with chili. The thin strip of skin is stiff and chewy. 

Love this 😋 (One of my most memorable food in Bhutan.)

Air dried beef or sha kam. It's like spicy beef jerky. Chewy, savoury, spicy, beefy.

Spicy fried leafy spinach.

Dried chili. Nice and within my spiciness tolerance. 


Chili cheese (ema datshi) is delicious. It is large shreds of fleshy, juicy green chili pepper, moderately spicy hot enveloped in a blend of creamy mildly savoury salty cheeses. Bhutanese practically eat chili cheese with everything 😄

There's also a large dollop of grounded red chili paste for added spicy kick. Bhutanese like their food very spicy hot and they have a high spiciness tolerance.

Enjoy it all by washing it down with a cup of traditional hot butter tea (suja).

It's black tea with butter and salt. So the round bodied tea is smooth, buttery and salty. Not much, if any tea flavour.

Do try a tomza when you visit Bhutan or wherever you may find it in the world. It is delicious and satisfying.

I got my first tomza at Chuniding Food in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan.


Restaurant name: Chuniding Food

Address: Gepkha Lam 1, Thimphul, Bhutan, 00975

Tel: +975 2 325 997

Hours: 9am - 9pm

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Written by Tony Boey on 20 Dec 2023

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