First, jalebis ringed in goodwill for India in the eastern Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Now samosas at Dantak canteens have cemented the trust factor for Indian cooking in one of the world’s happiest countries. The main patrons of the six canteens that were started across Bhutan —and meant exclusively for the Armed Forces, the Indian labour force and the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) staff—are Bhutanese.
Dantak canteens provide food to the forces deployed on many routes in crucial areas where the roads are often blocked by natural causes like landslides.
Thimpu local Dorjee Gambo goes to the Dantak canteen to buy clothes, footwear and grocery items and food at subsidised rates. “A samosa is `10 a piece, a jalebi is `110 per kg and a masala dosa costs `40,” he says.
Between 1962 and 2018, 1,800 people have lost their lives while building and maintaining roads in Bhutan. Landslides causing loss of men and equipment are a regular feature in this mountainous kingdom. For 56 long years, Project Dantak has been a household name in Bhutan and has helped strengthen good relations with our neighbour, says an army official.
J K Singh, in-charge, Dantak Canteen at Thimpu, says, “We get special orders for samosas and jalebis regularly. Even some hotels in Thimpu buy snacks from us. We send 100 kg of jalebis every week to construction companies.”
Leaving the capital city and moving towards Chuka, the sight of Indian labourers and engineers working on building bridges or removing the debris in the chilly weather is common. There is always an army vehicle around busy supplying hot snacks and tea. The Thimpu canteen has a seven-member staff, and sells 400-500 samosas and 40-50 kg of jalebis everyday.
The in-charge adds, “Dosas are in great demand. So are rice dishes. We plan to add vegetable biryani to our menu.” Soft diplomacy has become as soft as Dantak masala dosas in Bhutan.