Although Tibetan cuisine has very little on the sweet side, one special treat – thue – is a sugary, buttery, cheesy brick of goodness that is eaten at Losar and other special occasions, like weddings or the Shodon (yogurt) festival. (See the Know Your Tibetan Holidays post.) The uncooked squares, held together by vast quantities of butter, are also decorated with butter that has been shaped into suns (nyima) or moons (dawa) or the yung drung, the ancient Buddhist symbol of the Sanskrit svastika. Our friend Chodrak from Lhasa kindly showed us his family’s traditional recipe for thue. It’s easy as pie to make, actually much easier!
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See Chodrak make thue in the gallery below. (Click on any image to get a larger picture or to start a slideshow.) You will find the written recipe below.
Makes 2 bricks
- 1 pound of dri cheese (dried and shredded). Dri cheese comes from the female of the yak species but fear not if you don’t have access to dri milk :-) Shredded Parmesan or Romano (or any hard cheese) will work quite well.
- 2 cups of brown sugar. Chodrak used cane sugar but said it’s better to use the hard cones of unrefined Mexican sugar (piloncillo), which are quite like the hard brown sugar used in Tibet, called porang. Basically any kind of sugar will do.
- 6 sticks (24 ounces) of unsalted sweet cream butter. Yes, it really is this much :-) Any kind of butter will do.
- Mix the dried cheese, sugar and butter together very well by hand, working the lumps out of the butter as much as possible.
- Shape the thue dough into rectangular shapes about the size of small bricks. Here you have two choices. You can shape them by hand, or by using a wooden frame, called a thuedrom. (See the images below.)
- It is easy to shape the thue by hand. The edges will be rounded, as you see in one of the images in the gallery below.
- If you prefer, with a little more effort, you can have perfectly squared-off thue. Make a rectangular wooden frame about the size of an average brick, as you see in the image. You will also need a flat piece of wood and a thickish stick or dowel to use as a sort of hammer. Lay the frame on a flat surface, fill it with the thue mixture, and then shape it up with the wooden piece and dowel.
- Traditionally, Tibetans do not make thue without some kind of decoration made from butter on top. To make the little decorations, you will want to keep the butter cool while you are shaping it by hand. The way to do this is to put some ice in a bowl of water, and then make the shapes while holding the butter in this ice water to keep it from melting. To make the decorative edges, roll the butter between your hands to make a string shape. At the end you can use a toothpick to make some patterns in the edges. This is Chodrak’s creation, he tells us, and is not “traditional” :-)
- The common way to eat thue is to add a bit of it to some tsampa with Tibetan tea, to make pa. But plenty of people also just eat pieces of thue directly from the brick :-)