Thukpa is a soupy dish that originated in eastern Tibet. It is a combination of Tibetan-style noodles with vegetables or chicken stew in clear soup. Thukpa is essentially a dish of Darjeeling, but finds its roots in Tibetan cuisine. A hot-noodle soup, Thukpa comprises many veggies, some customary tinge of spices, and Hakka noodles. It is one of the most admired dishes within the town and is available at almost all the restaurants and roadside stalls. One can also find a diverse variety of Thukpa noodles within the city too. Thukpa originally is offered as a starter but can also be eaten as a wholesome meal itself, as it is delicious and healthy.
There are several varieties of thukpa, the most popular being gyathuk, pathug, drethug, bakhthu, which use cowrie (shaped like macaroni but made from wheat flour), and thenthuk, which is made of flat noodles. When in Gangtok, one can find vegetable thukpa containing almost every locally-grown variety in the soup. Most common ingredients, apart from meat, include carrot, bell pepper, spinach, cauliflower and celery.
Thukpa is widely available throughout the city and is especially loved by the Monpa community of Sikkim. They have something called putang thukpa, which uses buckwheat noodles with meat or fried fish, flavoured with red chilli, garlic and coriander, as well as seasonal greens and a generous sprinkling of herbs. Spring onions are typically added to the preparation in Gangtok. Here, thukpa is a must in winter the spiciness helps in warming the body and warding off the cold.
It is among the most favoured street foods in the city, with vendors across town selling hot bowls of rich, nutritious noodle soup at affordable prices.
Thukpa is made with mixing vegetables/chicken which makes it a good whole meal with nutrients. Quick and easy to make at home, Thukpa is an amazing option to cook for a light and fuss free meal.
The land of Tibet is known for its breathtaking beauty, rich culture, history and its rustic but delicious cuisines. One such dish is the humble Thukpa. A traditional noodle soup, Thukpa originated from the eastern part of Tibet. Both the ‘dish’ Thukpa and the ‘word’ Thukpa, refer to any soup or stew combined with noodles. There are numerous varieties of Thukpa in Tibetan tradition including Thentuk (hard pulled noodle), Gyathuk (Chinese noodle), Nepali, Pathug (hand-rolled pinched noodle) and Drethug. It is also consumed in the Indian states of Sikkim, Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh.
Originally, Thukpa traces its origin from the Amdo region in Tibet. Traditionally, it is prepared by cutting up mutton, steaming it with a little pepper and salt and cooking it until it reaches a chewy texture. Meanwhile, fresh dough is kneaded with little oil and is pulled into small, flat noodles which are thrown into boiling soup for a few minutes. In summers, Thukpa is prepared using cold noodles and during winter, the noodles are cooked in soup and eaten.
It also holds a special place in Tibetan celebrations. During Losar, or the Tibetan New Year, a special Thukpa called Guthuk is prepared. As part of the rituals, nine drops of the soup from the first bowl of Thukpa is kept separate and presented as an offering.
Thukpa has a very interesting story as to how it came to India. In 1959, the Dalai Lama had to leave Tibet and travel to India to seek refuge. The people who accompanied him, including his teachers, members of the Kashag (governing council of Tibet during the rule of the Qing dynasty and post-Qing period until the 1950s), and his family members, were asked not to carry anything. His mother had to dress like a man and carried only a woolen blanket and a little Tsampa (Tibetan staple foodstuff prepared by roasting barley or wheat flour which is later mixed with Tibetan butter tea). During the course of the whole journey, all of them survived on Tsampa and Thukpa. It was in exile that the Dalai Lama’s mother introduced Thukpa to the refugee community in India. Soon, it became a very popular and important cuisine and spread to many parts of India.
In the Northeast, particularly in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, and Darjeeling in West Bengal, Thukpa is hugely popular. It is a staple diet among the Monpa community that lives in the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. One of the most popular varieties of Thukpa for Monpa people is called Putang Thukpa. It is buckwheat noodles which is made into a curry and flavoured with yak meat or dry fish.
In Sikkim, Thukpa is a dish that is popular across all communities and many people like to pair it with Momos. Thukpa is a staple food in every household in Ladakh as well. In Darjeeling, Thukpa is available at every nook and corner of the city and is especially sought after in winter. Strangely, although people of Darjeeling consume pork extensively. Thukpa is quite uncommon and not found anywhere.
MAKE IT AT HOME
Preparation in: 20 minutes.
Cooks in: 40 Min.
Total in: 60 Min.
Makes: 4 Servings
Ingredients of Ladakhi Chicken Thukpa
- -Noodles (Egg Noodles/Veg Noodles/Hakka) –1 packet
- -Boneless Chicken cut into small cubes – 300 gms
- -Chopped Onion – 1 medium sized
- -Tomato chopped – 1 medium sized
- -Capsicum chopped – 1 small sized
- -Green Chilies chopped (according to taste)
- – French Beans
- – 5 to 6 Carrot
- – 1 Shredded Cabbage
- – 1/4 cup Spring onions
- – 5 to 6 + for garnishing Spinach chopped
- – 1/2 cup Coriander Leaves
- – 2 Tbsp Dark Soya Sauce
- – 1 Tsp Garlic cloves chopped
- – 7 to 8 Ginger grated
- – 1 inch Honey Sauce
- – 1 Tsp Water/Chicken Stock
- – 1.5 Litre Oil
- – 1 Tbsps Coriander powder
- – 1 Tsp Garam Masala powder
- – 1tsp Red Chili Powder
- – 1/2 tsp Black Pepper powder
- – 1 tsp Lemon Juice
- – 1 Tbsp Oil
- – 1 Tbsp Salt
How to make Chicken Thukpa
- De-join the 2 chicken legs.
- Julienne 5 gm ginger. Chop 5-6 spring onions and halve 3 green chilies. Finely chop 4-5 garlic cloves.
- Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil and shallow fry the chicken till it turns light brown.
- Now add chopped onion, and sliced carrot to the chicken.
- Then add ginger, garlic, spring onions and green chilies.
- Sprinkle salt, pepper and some fresh coriander leaves and saute.
- Add 200 ml of water and let it simmer for about 2-3 minutes.
- Squeeze in 1/2 lemon.
- Add 1 tsp of soya sauce and 1 tsp of honey.
- Stir the broth gently and cover it.
- Let it simmer away for 10 minutes.
- Remove the chicken from the broth and shred it.
- Add handful of egg noodles in the broth and cook for 5 minutes.
- Now add the shredded chicken back in the broth and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Garnish with some spring onions, green chili and fresh coriander.
- -The step one of sealing the chicken in oil is an optional step. You can skip this step and stir fry chicken, onions and the vegetables together for 4-5 minutes to save cooking time.
- -Frying the chicken and continuing to saute vegetables in the same fat gives the broth a richer flavour.
- -Using chicken pieces with bones is best. Use any back, neck or leg piece you have to add to the broth.
- -Adding whole spices adds more health benefits and flavour to the broth. Remember to take them out before serving.
- -If possible, use coriander leaves with roots. Break the stalks off from the roots and add to the broth for added freshness.
- -Thick noodles go best with this chicken noodle soup recipe.
- -Do not overcook the noodles as it will make the soup too sloppy.
- -Do not use green chillies in the beginning if you have children who do not enjoy the heat. You can add them later at the end to the soup as a garnish.