New Things: Eastern Bhutan Opens to Trekkers

At long last, Bhutan’s far east is taking visitors. For years the kingdom’s remote Merak and Sakten valleys have been largely off limits to outsiders, but the government is easing restrictions – somewhat. Starting next month, a handful of new operators will be permitted to lead small groups into Bhutan’s easternmost reaches.

If you ask us, Asia Transpacific Journeys is the way to go. The Colorado-based outfitter’s custom treks will take you deep into the stupa-specked land of the Brokpa people — one of the last remaining traditional Himalayan cultures — with a guide, cook, and horseman. For seven days, you’ll hike through pristine alpine valleys and forests, visiting with yak herders and farmers along the way.

“Virtually everything in their lives is handmade of their own indigenous materials,” says ATJ Founder Marilyn Downing Staff, who scouted the area in May and is pictured above with the Brokpa. “It’s very rare to find a culture like that in this day and age.” (From $395/day.)

By: Catharine Livingston, August 2010


Click here to read the full article. To find out more about creating a custom trip to Bhutan, call Asia Transpacific Journeys to speak to a travel specialist at 800-642-2742.

Recipe: Bhutanese Dumplings

During our trips to Bhutan, we have developed a craving for momos. Momos, or dumplings, are a Bhutanese staple that originated in Tibet.  Momos are usually stuffed with meat or cheese. Several of our favorite Thimphu restaurants are known for their cheese and veggie momos, which inspired this recipe.

Buckwheat Dumplings with Bok Choy


•     1 large head bok choy stem removed and quartered
•     3 tablespoons poppy seeds
•     1/4 teaspoon Chinese Szechuan peppercorns
•     2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
•     Fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
•     1 small red onion peeled and chopped
•     1/2 cup crumbled farmer cheese (Monterey Jack may be substituted)
•     1 teaspoon chili powder
•     1/4 teaspoon salt
•     1 stick unsalted butter
•     2 cups all-purpose flour
•     1 cup buckwheat flour
•     1 cup water
•     Flour for dusting

To make the filling, steam the bok choy for 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze dry.

Pulverize the poppy seeds and peppercorns with a spice or coffee grinder.

Add the onion and chop finely, about 10 seconds. Chop and mix the bok choy, poppy seed mixture, garlic and ginger, cheese, chili powder, and salt until combined. This may be done for about 10 seconds in a food processor.

Brown the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring, about 4 minutes. Cool and strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Add to the filling and mix well, (or process until combined, about 15 seconds.)

To make the dough, combine the flours and water and work until the dough forms a ball. Dust the ball with flour.

Cut the dough into 8 pieces, dust with flour, and wrap 7 pieces in plastic wrap to prevent drying out. With a rolling pin or pasta machine, roll out the pieces into sheets, dusting with flour occasionally to prevent sticking. Place the dough sheet between sheets of plastic wrap. Roll out the remaining dough in the same manner.

Cut the sheets, 1 at a time, into 4-by-2 inch rectangles. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center of each rectangle. Brush the edges lightly with water and fold the rectangles over to make squares, pressing the edges to seal them well.

Cook the dumplings in batches in a saucepan of simmering water until tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Or fry the dumplings in very hot peanut oil. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Marilyn Downing Staff

Join company founder, Marilyn Downing Staff, at Boulder’s City Club on June 17th for an evening of Bhutanese inspired food and a slideshow presentation. RSVP required. Click here for details.

Marilyn just returned from 3-weeks of travel to Bhutan, trekking through the most remote areas. To read more about her experience, check out our posting on May 19, 2010.