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 offered kept separate as an offering.
Thukpa has a very interesting story to it as how it came to India. In 1959, 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), 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 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. Among the Monpa community that lives mostly in the West Kameng district of the Arunachal Pradesh, it is a staple diet. 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 something that is popular across all communities and some people like to pair it with Momos. Thukpa is a staple for every household in Ladakh as well. In Darjeeling, Thukpa is available in every nook and corner of the city and is especially sought after in winter. Strangely, although people of Darjeeling consume pork extensively, yet pork Thukpa is quite uncommon.
If Thukpa has left your mouth watering and craving in this lockdown, here is a quick recipe by Chef Aditya Bal to prepare it at home!
· 2 chicken legs
· 1 onion, chopped
· 1 carrot, sliced
· 5 gm ginger, julienned
· 7 spring onions, chopped
· 3 green chillies, slit
· 4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
· Salt and pepper to taste
· 1/2 lemon
· Few springs of coriander leaves
· 1 tsp honey
· 1 tsp soy sauce
· 2 Tbsp olive oil
· A handful of egg noodles (you can use regular noodles also)
1. Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed vessel and fry the chicken until it turns light brown.
2. Now add the chopped onion and carrots and saute for 1-2 minutes.
3. Then add ginger, garlic, spring onions and green chilies, and saute for another minute.
4. Sprinkle salt, pepper and some fresh coriander leaves and saute for 1 more minute.
5. Add 200 ml of water and let it simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Then squeeze in the lemon juice.
6. Add soya sauce and honey, and stir the broth gently. Then cover it with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes.
7. Remove the chicken from the broth and shred it.
8. Add handful of egg noodles in the broth and cook for 5 minutes.
9. Now add the shredded chicken back into the broth and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.
10. Garnish with some spring onions, green chillies and fresh coriander.