Chillies are one of the main cash crops for farming communities in Central and Eastern Bhutan. The unique Urka Bangala a local variety that is grown in the village of Womanang in Bomdeyling Gewog, as well as in gewogs such as Yangtse, under Trashiyangtse Dzongkhag in Eastern Bhutan.
Urka chillies are shorter, rounder and creased in shape, and is said to be an authentically Bhutanese spice that is native to the region. Dried on rooftops and the ground, the autumn and winter sun further intensifies its zesty and piquant flavour.
In Bhutan, chillies are consumed as vegetables rather than a spice. The appetizing chillies are a staple of Bhutanese food used to cook any curry, often by itself, or as condiments in other Bhutanese dishes, as well as in salads. Many locals will profess that chillies pique tastes and enhance any dish.
In 2020, OGOP in partnership with the Thai International Cooperation Agency (TICA) conducted a training of trainers (TOT) with Chiang Mai Rajabat University, Thailand for the Urka Chilli farmer groups, mostly led by women.
It was followed by product development and value addition training for 32 Urka Chilli growers in Trashiyangtse Dzongkhag.
The prototype for the Urka Chilli Pickle was developed during this training. While the Urka chilli is usually sold sun-dried, the pickle offers an alternate means of income for farmers who are unable to dry chillies due to unfavorable weather conditions. Currently farmers market dried and pickled Urka through OGOP and the farmer group’s local outlets.