Cafe Himalaya
78 East 1st St., East Village, Manhattan

Cover art for "Made Here: Recipes & Reflections from NYC’s Asian Communities"
Lap Cheong Fried Rice and other recipes are featured in “Made Here: Recipes & Reflections from NYC’s Asian Communities.” Cover credit: Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet, Tina Zhou, Nat Belkov

Thukpa is a noodle soup originating in Eastern Tibet, a staple in Tibetan and Nepalese households, typically containing wheat noodles and some medley of meat and vegetables. Thukpa is an archetypal word in Tibetan, referring to any soup or stew containing noodles. “Thukpa is found in various renditions across the Himalayas. It’s favored by Cafe Himalaya staff as well as the stream of ride-sharing drivers who stop by the restaurant,” said owner Karma Dolma. 

Cafe Himalaya’s rendition is a vegetarian-friendly version in comparison to the meat-heavy version commonly found in India and Nepal. “The reason why our menu is vegetarian-friendly is to show that [Himalayan] food can be very versatile,” noted Dolma. “In general, Tibetan food tends to be very meat-focused but we want to highlight vegetarian-friendly options to accommodate various lifestyles.” 

Sautéed aromatics and crushed tomatoes are added for body, acidity and the sweetness they develop as they cook. Hearty vegetables that can stand up to simmering, like cabbage, carrots, mushrooms and green beans, are then added to the pot. Either fresh or dried noodles are fine to use here, depending on ingredient availability. 

Prep time: 20 minutes • Cook time: 25 minutes • Serving size: 3-4 

Ingredients

    • ½ pound dried or fresh wheat noodles 
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable, canola or grapeseed oil
    • 1 small white onion, thinly sliced 
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced 
    • 1 small piece of ginger, minced
    • 1 medium tomato, roughly chopped
    • 1 medium carrot, julienned
    • ½ small head green cabbage, roughly chopped 
    • ½ cup crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
    • 1 cup green beans, roughly chopped
    • 1 ½ cups vegetable stock
    • ½ cup fresh spinach
    • 3 to 4 scallions, thinly sliced
    • 1 small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped 
    • salt 

Instructions for making thukpa (vegetable noodle soup)

    1. Cook the noodles as directed on the packaging. Strain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside. 
    2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions and sauté until translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. 
    3. Add the garlic and ginger to the pan
      and season with a pinch of salt. Cook for 1 minute, then add the tomato (*see NOTE 1 below). 
    4. Reduce heat to medium and add the carrot, cabbage, mushrooms and green beans (*or vegetables of your choice per NOTE 2, below). Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
    5. Add the vegetable stock and bring the mixture to a rapid simmer. Season to taste with more salt and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. 
    6. Add the cooked noodles and spinach. The residual heat will slightly wilt the spinach. Ladle the soup into individual bowls. Garnish with sliced scallions and chopped cilantro. 

* NOTE 1: You can also include ½ lb. of cooked chicken or beef after step 3. If using raw meat, chop into ½-inch cubes or thin slices, salt generously and add to the hot pan before adding the onions in step 2, cooking it for a few minutes until the exterior starts to brown. 

* NOTE 2: This vegetable combination is just a suggestion. Feel free to use 2 to 3 cups of whatever vegetables you prefer (cabbage, peas, green beans, mushrooms, carrots, celery, tofu, etc.).

Excerpted from Made Here: Recipes & Reflections from NYC’s Asian Communities. The result of countless hours of work by dozens of volunteer photographers, writers and illustrators, recipe testers, translators and many more, Made Here is a cookbook and a concept driven by New York’s community. Produced by the nonprofit initiative Send Chinatown Love, the cookbook features the stories of New York’s Asian-owned mom-and-pop restaurants and shops — many of which were hit early and particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Top photo by Cindy Trinh


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