Radio Shangri-La Review and Emadatse Recipe on the TLC Book Tour

Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth

About Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth by Lisa Napoli

(Provided) When Napoli met the handsome Sebastian at a cookbook party in New York City, she was intrigued by this man who traveled to Bhutan regularly. And when the accomplished L.A.-based journalist (MSNBC, CNN, public radio’s Marketplace) researched the country about which he spoke so enthusiastically, she became entranced with Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan kingdom that sits between India and China.
This country–dubbed “the happiest on earth” because of its focus on environmental and social progress–is hard to get to, with its remote location and governmental deterrents to tourism, like a per-person, per-day tourist tax. But a friend of Sebastian’s needs help with startup radio station Kuzoo FM, so Napoli leaves L.A. and goes to Bhutan for six weeks. She writes, “After more than two decades of reducing even the most complex issues to 1,000 words or less, I was tired of observing life from a distance.” While the author turns an eye on her own motivations (nothing further developed with Sebastian), she refrains from tortured navel-gazing and instead shares and reflects on Bhutan’s people, history, and customs (from painting phalluses on houses to repel evil spirits to Buddhism’s role in daily life). Napoli’s adventures at home and abroad, in nature and career and spirit, will delight readers.

Because many book clubs like to pair food with the books they’re discussing, we asked Lisa Napoli if there was a recipe she could share, and this is what she came up with:

In Bhutan, making Emadatse is a bit like making red sauce around my Italian side of the family.  Everyone has their own slightly different ‘secret,’ and everyone thinks theirs is the best!  Bhutanese consider red hot chili peppers to be a vegetable, not a spice; they’re nutrient rich, and warm the insides–essential ingredients for food in the Himalayas.  All over Bhutan you can see them drying in the sun, on ledges, roofs, any surface that will hold a family’s necessary capacity for their weekly intake: Emadatse’s eaten three times a day in Bhutan, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and some people feel a meal isn’t complete without it!

This recipe comes from my friend, Karma Dem, of Good Karma Catering, who grew up in the Haa District of Bhutan.  Try it only if you dare!

Good Karma's Emadatse (as Americanized by Lisa Napoli) (click to printable copy)
(Feeds one Bhutanese; fine non-spice fans)

Chillies – about 10 pieces (serano, jalapeno, bell peppers – these all can be used depending on the level of hotness one wants to have)
Cheese – Monterey Jack shredded – 1 cup (some like it cheesier so  you can add half cup or more depending on how cheesey you want it)
Olive oil or butter – (2 T. olive oil or 1/2 stick of butter- butter helps to tone down some of the spiciness of the chillies)
Salt to taste

Optional additions to absorb the heat and Americanize this:
Potatoes (5 small, very thinly sliced – makes this recipe kewa-datse)
Mushrooms (10 of any kind; chanterelles are common in the summer around Bhutan but are pricey here)
1 medium onion – julienned
2 medium tomatoes – chopped in bite size pieces
3 garlic pieces – not the whole clove – it would make it too garlicky


Warm the oil or butter.  Turn heat down to low. 
Chop the chillies, add the grated cheese, salt, and any optional items you desire.  
Stir for 10-15 minutes, depending on how “al dente” you like veggies.  
Serve over heaping plates of white or pink Bhutanese rice.

*Saki or Soju is as close as you’ll get to Bhutanese rice wine, ara, or have a beer to cut the heat!

NOTE:  DO NOT put chillies in boiling water – it enhances the spiciness of the chillies – also it will blanch green chillies.  Always put chillies in cold water to cook if you do not want them to be spicy.

Traditional Emadatse is just the chillies and cheese.
Thoughts from the Scraps of Life Book Club:
Radio Shangri-La is a "coming of age" story about a woman who has already very much "come of age". Lisa Napoli writes in first person about her experiences as a volunteer, running a radio station in the Asian Kingdom of Bhutan.

She begins her story by explaining her reasons for wanting to make a change in her life, step out on faith, and seek a new adventure. She is knocking on the door to forty, working in Public Radio at a job she enjoys but doesn't really see as her true purpose in this life. She is unsuccessful in love, unremarkable in effort, and falling into a rut that she finds frightening. All of this background is given to explain her reasoning when she decides to accept a request by a man she barely knows to take a leave of absence for six months and move to the remote Kingdom of Bhutan to run the only radio station in the country.

As a woman who also finds herself barreling toward the big 4-0, I was able to understand Lisa's desire to break away from the norm and find her own path. How many of us have the courage to pack a bag, board a plane, and leave regular life behind for six months? To travel to the other side of the world and take over a job sight unseen? While in my own life this would never be possible, I still found contemplating the idea entertaining, and looking at the world from a different point of view made the book something I wanted to finish.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning about cultures very different from ours in the United States. If you are curious about Bhutan, this book takes an extremely in depth look at the geography, society, structure and culture of Bhutan. I also think it would be enjoyed by a dear reader who is bogged down in their own life and entertains escapist fantasies. It is not often you find a book in which the heroine is older than 17 and still finding adventure in this life.

Check out the  links to learn more about the author: 
Lisa's website
Lisa's blog
Radio S-L on Facebook
Lisa on Twitter
Thanks to the TLC Book Tours for providing a copy of the book to the Scraps of Life Book Club for our participation on the Tour. The words and opinions expressed in this review belong to said Club!  Grab a copy to form your own review and click HERE to check what others have to say about the book.


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