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Tibetan food, which evolved to sustain a hardy people living at an average elevation of 16,000 feet, is like no other food in the world. Who else but Tibetans have a great time drinking salty tea and eating sweet rice in the same sitting? Or grow up on a steady diet of roasted barley flour made into a dough with tea, butter, sugar and dried cheese from the female yak (dri)? While these dishes can be an acquired taste for non-Tibetans, there is a wealth of other uniquely Tibetan flavors that inspire total devotion in food lovers around the world.
We have written Tibetan Home Cooking to share with you the most common, well-loved Tibetan foods that are cooked in Tibetan homes, both inside Tibet and around the world. Each recipe in this book is authentically Tibetan, created by Lobsang Wangdu and a small group of excellent Tibetan chefs, featuring Tsering Tamding la. Each recipe is based on the cook’s personal history with a particular well-known Tibetan dish, usually passed down in the family for hundreds of years.
— Lobsang Wangdu and Yolanda O’Bannon
thenthuk/"pull" noodle soup
'Pull' Noodle Soup Recipe
Thenthuk (pronounced roughly like “ten” + “too” + k) is a typical Tibetan noodle soup that keeps the nomads warm during the long Tibetan winters. You can make it either with vegetables or meat. In Tibetan “then” means pull and “thuk” means noodles. Note that the initial cooking of the broth happens quickly, so best to have all your ingredients prepared before you start actually cooking.
For 2 people
You can make this vegetarian-style, or with meat.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup of water
- About 1 and 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil (We used olive oil.)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon of ginger, minced
- 1/2 medium onion (We use red.)
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 2 and 1/2 cups water, for soup (If you like a thinner broth, add more water.)
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 1/3 teaspoon of bouillon (Vegetable bouillon for veg version — any meat bouillon for meat version.)
- 2 cups spinach (Or as much as you like.)
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro and/or 2 stalks of green onion, chopped
- Optional: 3/4 of 1 medium-large daikon and 1 tablespoon of salt for rinsing the daikon
- For Meat Version, add 1/2 pound of beef or mutton (We use stew beef but pretty much any kind is okay.). Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground emma (used only for meat version, not for vegetable version).
The dough is very important for this noodle soup. It needs to sit for 15 or 20 minutes so that it can become flexible and easy to pull.
- Slowly add about 1/2 cup of water to 1 cup of all-purpose flour in a bowl.
- Mix the flour and water very well by hand and keep adding water until you can make a smooth ball of dough. Then knead the dough very well until the dough is flexible, 3-5 minutes. You want it both solid and flexible enough to stretch rather than break when pulled.
- Roll the dough between your hands to make a thick rope shape, and break that long piece into 4-5 shorter pieces of the same thickness.
- Put oil on your hand and roll the pieces between your hands again so they won’t stick together.
- Put the 4-5 pieces of dough in a plastic bag or in a pot and put a lid to cover the dough so it doesn’t dry out.
- Let rest, covered, for 15-20 minutes.
Now the dough is prepared and you can start the broth.
- If using daikon, peel and chop it. Cover the chopped daikon with water and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Soak the daikon in this salty water, stirring around with your hand, then rinse well. Tibetans say this takes the strong “radish smell” away.
- Chop the onion, ginger, garlic, and tomato.
- Optional: If you are cooking the meat version, cut it into thin bite-size slices.
- Heat 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of oil on high heat until hot.
- Turn down heat to medium high and stir fry onion, ginger, and garlic for 2-3 minutes until the edges are a little brown.
- Add the beef, and raising the heat back up to high, stir fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the meat is well browned.
- When meat is brown, add tomatoes, and cook covered, still on high for 2-3 more minutes.
- Add beef or vegetable bouillon, and soy sauce.
- Optional: Add the emma, if you are cooking the meat version.
- At this time, you can add the daikon, and cook, still on high, another 2-3 minutes.
- Add two and a half cups of water to the pot.
- Bring the broth to a boil, stirring occasionally.
- While the soup is cooking, chop 1/2 cup of cilantro, two green onions, and 2 cups of spinach (Or as much as you like).
Making the 'Pull' Noodles
- When the broth starts to boil, you can add the dough.
- Take a wedge of dough and roll it between your hands so it gets a little longer. Flatten it with your fingers. Then pull the dough off in little flat pieces as long as your thumb and throw them in the pot. See how fast you can pull off the noodles.
- When all the noodles are in the pot, cook it for an additional three to five minutes to cook the noodles. After that, you can put in the cilantro, green onions, and spinach. They don’t need to cook, really, so you can serve the soup immediately.
Enjoy your thenthuk and sweat because it really makes you warm!
Also from Tibetan Home Cooking:
More Tibetan dishes:
Reprinted with permission from Tibetan Home Cooking by Lobsang Wangdu and Yolanda O’Bannon and published by YoWangdu, 2018.