Not just for colds: Nepalese thukpa (chicken noodle soup)

Last Thursday was Chinese New Year, which is the sort of occasion we generally get excited about because it gives us an excuse to cook something appropriate. However, we still have a freezer full of lentils thanks to our South Indian sambar and North Indian tadka dal, so on Thursday night we dined on leftover sambar. Again.

After so much curry recently, our hearts sank when we found that Nepal’s national dish was a rice and lentil combination. We were therefore thankful to also find thukpa, a Nepalese noodle soup which we made on Wednesday night. We actually missed Pancake Day on Tuesday as well, because we were feasting on six different cuts of steak (with salad and three types of chips) at Rotunda, a wonderful new discovery at King’s Cross: a restaurant with its own farm and on-site butcher. After all that cow, a lighter dinner on Wednesday night was exactly what we needed.

Thukpa
(Recipe from SBS Food)

Ingredients
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp chopped ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric (although, typing this up now, I’ve realised we forgot to use it – oops)
1/4 ground Szechuan pepper
1 pinch asafoetida powder
1 long green chilli, chopped (deseeded if desired)
200g tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1.5 litres chicken stock
300g skinless chicken thigh fillet
300g rice noodles
100g carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped coriander to garnish

Method
1. Combine the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, tomatoes and spices in a blender and process until combined.
2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the spice paste you have just made and cook, stirring, for 6-7 minutes, until aromatic.
3. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Add the chicken thighs and simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until cooked. Remove from the stock and roughly shred.
5. Meanwhile, bring 2 litres of water to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the rice noodles and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and refresh in cold water, then drain again and set aside.
6. Add the carrot and pepper to the stock and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until just tender. Add the lemon juice and season to taste.
7. Divide the noodles between bowls and top with chicken. Ladle the stock and vegetables over the noodles and top with coriander.

Thukpa

We enjoyed this as a tasty and simple midweek dinner. The quantities were confusing, though: this is supposed to serve 4, but aside from the noodles, it basically consists of two people’s worth of chicken, a carrot and a pepper. For that reason, we decided it should actually serve two, but that left us with way too many noodles. If we were to make it again, we’d keep all the quantities the same, but halve the noodles. At least the extra noodles gave us something to eat with the sambar the following night…

Fortunately, China is next on our list of countries – so we will have a belated Chinese New Year celebration (and possibly also a belated Pancake Day) sometime in the near future!

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