Tasting Tshokchhang for the First Time

Let me introduce you to a local tradition in Bhutan, that is especially prevalent in the eastern region of the country.

Tshok Chhang is an offering that comprises rice, eggs and lots and lots of alcohol. The offering is usually made by a group of representatives from the village to guests who visit their community for the first time. As we finished discussing our program for the next day, Sir Sonam’s sister in law suddenly announced the arrival of a group of women from Ney. They had come with the Tshok Chhang as a welcome gift for us.

Tshokchhang ceremonies in the eastern part of Bhutan
Tshokchhang alcohol

As more and more women started entering the house and began piling bangchungs of rice and plastic bottle of local alcohol in front of us, Sir Sonam instructed us that we need to drink with them and accept their offering, “if you do not accept this gift and don’t drink, they will feel unhappy and offended,” said Sir Sonam laughing at our nervous faces. 

The women sing as they start filling up cups of ara and millet Chhangkoe (I preferred this sweet delicious drink to the stronger ara) and continue pouring additionally after every few sips. “Den zhey la” (you must take the second round of alcohol) Needless to say the entire group soon found themselves in a happy place.

Nakpa millet alcohol

Trip advice: Tshok Chhang ceremony is a traditional practice of villagers welcoming their guests. People take food and alcohol as offerings which is why it is important to return the favor by giving them money. If there is a huge group, it is advisable to give them Nu. 100 – 200 each if you can. Since most villagers don’t earn an income directly, such traditions allow them to earn a small earning through shared good will of guests.

With red cheeks and a slight slur in my speech, I found myself explaining to the women why we were visiting their village. I don’t remember whether they fully understood me, now that I think of it but I remember laughing…a lot. Well, welcome to the east.

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