At its simplest, Thukpa can be described as a wholesome noodle soup. At it’s best, I call it home-in-a-bowl. Thukpa is a traditional Tibetan meal inspired by the Chinese and now eaten all over Nepal, Bhutan and many parts of North-east India as well. My sister and her family did a road trip through northern India and when she came back she described this to me as one of her best meals through the trip. Never having been to these parts myself, I lived vicariously through her and their vacation, adding Ladakh to our long list of places to visit.
It’s easy to see why Thukpa can be considered the mother of all comfort foods. Just look at everything that goes into it – your meat of choice, broth, garlic, chilies, veggies and noodles – simmered over a low flame to get all the flavors to marry each other, and eaten piping hot in hug mugs! This winter, we’ve made it for dinner a few times already, and each time I added whatever we had on hand, sometime without mushrooms, once even with broccoli! The recipe is so forgiving that you can make it as simple or as complex as you want and it will still taste so good. And of course, it can be made completely vegetarian by simply replacing the non-veg stock with vegetarian stock, and lots of vegetables instead of meat.
This soupy awesomeness will make you want to curl up on the couch with warm woolen socks on and watch your favorite romantic movie on a cold day. Or if you are me, then dream of faraway lands with the Himalayas and monasteries in the background, promising yourself that one day you will make that trip!
Yield: 6 servings
What you need :
1) Chicken breast – 500 gms / 1 lb chopped to small cubes – (Enough chicken to ensure pieces in every bite!)
2) 3 tbl spoons minced garlic
3) 2 tbl spoons of ginger paste
4) 1 large onion thinly sliced
5) 1 large tomato thinly sliced
6) 1 cup mushrooms julienned
7) a hand full of spinach
8) 1/2 cup carrots julienned
9) any other veggies you have around – french beans, broccoli, potatoes can all go in! (note:if you want to use potatoes, half boil them first) – chopped
10) 1 tbl spoon Cumin pdr
11) 1 tbl sp Schezuan pepper (or regular finely ground black pepper)
12) 1 tbl sp any Asian chilly sauce you have (I used a garlic red chilly chutney!)
13) 1 green chilly (You can omit this if you want to keep the heat down, I thought we could have added maybe one more!)
14) 1 tbl sp soy sauce
15) 1 lime
16) fresh coriander/cilantro for garnish
17) 1 tbl sp mustard oil + 1 tbl sp ghee (or just 2 tbl sp of any cooking oil you use)
18) 150 gms/ 5 oz of noodles (I used pad thai rice noodles – but I’ve seen many recipes using egg noodles too)
19) Chicken broth – 1.42 ltr / 1.5 qt
20) Salt to taste
1) Cook noodles as instructed on the box a little shy of well done (if the box says 12 minutes, take it off the flame in 9-10). Strain and keep aside.
2) In a large deep bottom pan heat the mustard oil and ghee on a medium flame. Add the onions, garlic and ginger to this and sautee till onions are cooked. Do not brown.
3) Add tomatoes, cumin powder, pepper and salt and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Followed with chicken pieces, and cook till chicken pieces turn opaque (around 10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add chilly sauce, chopped green chilly and soy sauce.
4) Add mushrooms, carrots, any other veggies (except spinach) you want and mix well. Cover and keep for 5 minutes on medium flame and allow to cook.
5) Add the chicken broth and bring to boil. I added an extra 2 cups of water to make it even more soupy, you can also simply increase the quantity of the broth.
6) Add the cooked noodles. Throw in spinach leaves and continue to boil for 5-7 minutes. Cut the heat and add cilantro/ coriander and freshly squeezed lime juice. Cover and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.
Serve this in a bowl, with a side of sliced lime. Enjoy hot! =)