This past year, I became interested in possibly doing a trek at some later point in my life into the Himalayan Mountains. I've looked into a couple of possible treks that I might consider. One is a 16-day trek to Everest Base Camp, hiking through Sherpa villages, mountainous terrain and glacial valleys. Another trek that looks interesting to me is a more remote 10-day trek into restricted areas of Tibet but starting in Nepal. That one appeals to me because not only is it about endurance and fabulous scenery, but it's an immersion into the very ancient Tibetan culture of the region. One that is not experienced by the average tourist even to Nepal or to Tibet. Another possibility is the ever popular Annapurna Circuit. Naturally, I'm interested in learning about the region and the people. And for that reason, that's where I'm starting with my whole food, plant-based creations from foods eaten in that part of the world.
This particular dish, known as Thukpa originated in eastern Tibet. But it is also popular in Nepal, Bhutan and some states in northeast India, including Sikkim, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Thukpah is a noodle soup, and while it's often made with meat, I've eliminated the meat in favor of making it with soy curls, although tofu could just as easily be used. Soy curls, however, have more of the consistency of meat and they make a great substitute for meat. If you are unfamiliar with soy curls or unsure of where to buy them, you can learn more at the Butler Foods website. Soy curls can also be purchased on Amazon.
There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe. While I am trying to keep the list of ingredients down, that is difficult to do in some cases. Particularly when looking at the Himalayan area of the world because they tend to use a lot of spices in their dishes. And spices are so important. As we go along during the year, I intend to talk about different spices and how important they are. Not every blog post is going to be a recipe. Some will be about spices. There might be one or two posts about using knives in the kitchen as well. And there may even be some blog posts about food writing itself. All of this is material to eventually be fed into my cookbook.
One other note about this recipe. It calls for the carrots, red peppers and celery to be julienned. If you don't know what that means or how to julienne vegetables, you might consider watching this video. It can also be done with a good food processor, but I personally like using a chef's knife for doing that kind of thing.
There are two steps to this recipe. The first is to dehydrate and marinate the soy curls. For best results, this needs to be done at least 24 hours before making the Thukpa. Making the Thukpa is then the second step. I will list the ingredients and the directions separately for each step.
This recipe serves 4 and takes approximately 30 minutes to prepare and 20 minutes to cook.
Step 1 -- Ingredients for Preparing the Soy Curls
1/2 Package of Soy Curls
4 Cups Veggie broth
Turmeric powder or ground turmeric root to coat the Soy Curls
Black pepper to coat the Soy Curls
3 Tblsp maple syrup
1/2 Cup Additional Veggie Broth
Step 1 -- Directions for Preparing the Soy Curls 24 Hours in Advance
Soak the soy curls in veggie broth for 30 to 60 minutes to dehydrate and to initially flavor.
Then pat the soy curls dry, but save the stock used to soak the soy curls. It can be used in preparing the base of the Thukpa.
Coat the soy curls with turmeric and sprinkle liberally with black pepper. You may want to wear kitchen or hospital gloves to prevent staining your fingers with the turmeric.
Pour the maple syrup over the soy curls and wet the soy curls with the remaining broth, Mix everything together well, cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.
Step 2 -- Ingredients for Preparing the Thukpa
1 Large Carrot, Julienned (approximately 2" x 1/4")
1/2 Large Red Pepper, Julienned (length of the pepper x 1/4")
2 Medium Celery Stalks (approximately 2" x 1/4")
1-1/2 Cups Fresh Baby Spinach
Marinated Soy Curls as prepared above
4 Cups Low-Salt Veggie Broth (includes the 4 cups reserved from Soy Curl preparation)
8 Ounces Maifun (Asian Brown Rice Noodles)
1 Clove Garlic
3/4 Tbsp Fresh Ginger
3/4 Tbsp Finely Diced Red Chile Pepper (deseeded)
1/3 Cup Diced Tomato
1-1/2 Tablespoons of Fresh Cilantro
2/3 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper (freshly ground if available)
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Turmeric
Juice of 1 Small Lime
Fennel leaves to garnish
Directions for Preparing the Thukpa
Cook brown rice noodles per the package directions and then set aside.
Create the soup paste by putting the garlic, ginger, red chili peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, cumin, black pepper, turmeric and lime juice into your Vitamix or blender and blend until smooth. Note: If using a Vitamix (high-powered blender), then you can use whole pieces of ginger root and turmeric root.
There are two ways to then complete the cooking. You can cook on the stove or you can cook with an InstantPot. Choose one of the following two:
Heat the soup paste in a 6 quart pot. Heat for approximately 30 to 40 seconds. Then add the broth and mix the paste in thoroughly with the broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low heat to simmer the broth mixture. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
Heat the soup paste using the Saute mode for approximately 30 to 40 seconds. Then add the broth and mix the paste thoroughly with the broth. Add the remaining ingredients and change to Pressure Mode for 3 minutes. Allow the pressure cooker to slow release before opening.
Pour soup over the noodles and garnish with the fennel leaves. Enjoy!
Note: I found this dish plenty tasty myself, but you should feel free to add additional preferred spices before eating. If you find something that improves the dish, please let me know.