Thukpa bhathuk centers on the little hand-rolled bhatsa noodles that most resemble, in their shape, Italian gnocchi, but with an extra little scoop. One of the benefits of this shape is that you get a little extra taste of the broth with every bite of bhatsa. Like other Tibetan noodle soups, thukpa bhathuk is especially popular in winter. It’s relatively easy and quick, and wonderfully warming on a cold day. Tibetans traditionally use mutton, beef or yak for the meat, but it is also delicious in it’s veggie incarnation, which you can find in our post on the soup, guthuk, eaten on the eve of the eve of Tibetan New Year >>
The particular little shell shape of noodle that we are making for this soup can also be called gutsi rithuk. Some Tibetans in fact make a distinction between these shells shapes, which they call gutsi rithuk, and another shape, formed by simply pinching or cutting, off small pieces from a rope of dough, which they bhathuk. For these people bhathuk is a very specific kind of noodle that is to be eaten only on the death day anniversary of the famous Tibetan Buddhist Master Je Tsongkhapa. (Tibetan for this anniversary day: Ganden Ngamchoe.)
My family, who are from the Lhasa area of Central Tibet, however, call both of these types of noodles bhathuk as a general term. They occasionally call this shell shape gutsi rithuk, as a more specific term, but usually we just call it by the generic term of bhathuk. So we eat “thukpa bhathuk” all-year round, while other people might call that gutsi rithuk.
This is a great example of how Tibetan culture has a lot of difference and variety. Even among Lhasa people, not everyone calls this kind of noodle the same thing. Also, people make bhathuk noodles differently. Some make it a little round, some squeeze it between their fingers to shape it, and some, like my family, just pinch off pieces from the dough rope and toss them in the soup :-) In fact, some members of my family use the gutsi rithuk style (curled shells) for guthuk, while others use the other bhathuk shape!
For an interesting discussion of another view, see the great Simply Tibetan, Simply Delicious website.
For 2 people
- 9 ounces beef (We used sirloin steak but you can use any beef suitable for stew.)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 medium onion (We used red.)
- 1 cube beef bouillon (for veggie version use veggie bouillon)
- 3 cups water (first cooking) + 3 cups of water (second cooking)
- 2/3 of a large daikon, chopped (Japanese radish — See p.10. for info and possible substitutions)
- 1 stalk green onion, chopped
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped
- 5 cups spinach (measure before chopping), roughly chopped. (As long as they are clean, no need to remove the stems.)
- 1 tomato, chopped
- For a veggie version, leave out the meat and substitute vegetable bouillon.
- 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour
- ~1/2 cup water
First Cooking of the Soup
- Chop the beef into smallish bite-size pieces.
- Mince the garlic.
- Chop the onion.
- Boil the beef in 3 cups of water with bouillon, garlic and onion.
- When the broth starts to boil, turn down to medium and cook for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, turn down to low, and cook for another 30 minutes.
- The longer you cook this soup, basically, the better, though 50 minutes is fine.
Prepare the Daikon
- Peel the daikon (a potato peeler works well) and chop off the two ends.
- Chop the daikon into thin, narrow strips about as long as your finger. The strips should be about as thin and narrow as you can make them.
- Soak the chopped daikon in water with ~ 1 teaspoon of salt
- Soak for a few minutes, swishing around with your hand.
- Rinse well, several times, to get rid of salt and bitterness.
- Tibetans say that rinsing like this gets rid of the strong radish smell.
Some of the ingredients for the thukpa bhathuk recipe.
Chop the Garnishes
- Chop the tomato into smallish pieces.
- Finely chop the cilantro.
- Chop the green onion.
- Roughly chop the spinach (or don’t chop if you like large pieces)
- Set all these aside until the soup is almost done.
Prepare the Dough
- Slowly add the water to the flour.
- Mix to form a smooth ball and then knead a couple of minutes.
- This dough does not have to rest after kneading so you can prepare it any time during the cooking process.
Preparing dough for bhathuk.
Shape the Dough
- First, rub the ball of dough between your hands to make it into a thick tube of dough, and then pinch off pieces of that tube to make 4-5 chunks of dough.
- Then rub each piece of dough between your hands to form long, thin ropes of dough.
- Pinch off a piece as big as the end of your fingernail, or smaller.
- Rub the dough with one finger in the palm of your hand to cause the little piece of dough to curl up (the better to scoop up the juices in the soup). These little scooped pieces of dough are your bhatsa.
- Repeat until you’ve used up all your ropes of dough.
- You can sprinkle a little flour around the pile of bhatsa, to keep them from sticking together.
Pinching off dough and pressing the bhatsa for bhathuk.
- Add another 3 cups of water to the soup and bring to a boil.
- When soup starts to boil again, add daikon and cook for 2-3 minutes
- Now add all the little pieces of dough — the bhatsa — and cook for another 5 minutes. When cooked the bhatsa will pop up to the surface of the soup.
- Add spinach, cilantro, green onion, and tomato, and serve right away. (These final ingredients do not really need to cook, and look nicer if they are fresh looking.)
Best to eat hot!