In the wake of Chinese incorporation of Tibet in 1950, and a subsequent rebellion in 1959, a large population of Tibetan refugees, The Dalai Lama included, fled from their homes and settled in the mountain regions of Nepal and India. Now, 60 years later, the culture of most of the high alpine regions of the Himalayas still has a significant cultural influence from Tibet. In fact, on our recent three week trek on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, most of the teahouses and restaurants in the region were owned by displaced Tibetans. It wasn’t uncommon to see large panoramic photos of the Tibetan holy city of Lhasa mounted in the restaurants next to a decorated portrait of the Dalai Lama.
While the most ubiquitous form of mountain fuel found in the Nepalese Himalayas was the Indian inspired Daal Bhat (lentil soup, rice, and curried veggies, with an unlimited supply of refills), the dish that really kept our tummies warm and cozy was Tibetan Thenthuk. This tasty soup, made from a simple garlic and oil broth and freshly rolled noodles, was particularly quick to cook and serve; an added bonus when there’s only one cook to feed a whole Teahouse.
While traditional Thenthuk might include assorted vegetables and occasionally yak meat or mutton (goat), the dearth of those more nutritious ingredients at high altitude meant we became mostly acquainted with the simple noodles and broth form of the dish. After my first bowl, I was hooked. Lucky, after a relaxed 2-hour hiking day I had enough energy to sneak my way into the kitchen in Shree Kharka to learn how to make some.
The Tibetan cooks were making everything on an open flame stove stove fueled by a winning combination of wood and yak dung (not many trees grow at high altitude). While this added a certain charm to the dish, you can probably get by just fine on an electric or propane stove. Give this recipe a try on a cold and rainy day.
WHAT YOU NEED (3 servings):
For the dough:
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup warm water
For the soup:
- 6 cloves garlic (crushed)
- 1 thumb sized piece of ginger (finely chopped)
- 3/4 cup sunflower or sesame oil
- 6 cups water
- 1.5 tsp. tumeric
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- 1.5 tsp. MSG (optional)
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
- In a large bowl, mix together the dry dough ingredients (whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour and salt). Using a wooden spoon, slowly stir in oil and enough water to make a dough that is elastic but not sticky.
- Knead the dough on a lightly floured cutting board and then divide into two parts. Roll the parts flat with a rolling pin to about the size of a circle 14-in. in diameter and 1/8-in. thick, and then cut into 1-in. square pieces.
- In a large pot, preheat the sunflower oil on medium heat. Add crushed garlic and chopped ginger and fry for about a minute until the garlic is brown.
- Add water, turmeric, salt, pepper and MSG and bring to a boil.
- Add the dough to the broth and stir gently. Add soy sauce and let cook for about 3 minutes.
- Remove, serve, and enjoy!