Monday, November 18, 2013

How To Make Bagthuk - Bhutanese Noodle Soup

It's a bold statement, but I have a recipe here for the best, most delicious and winter-warming soup you are ever going to try!

I know in Australia right now the last thing you need is to warm up, so you are going to have to store this recipe away for a few months. Better still, it won't be long and you can come on over to our place and I'll show you how to make a big pot of it!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about making a Tibetan noodle soup called 'Thankthuk'. At the time I was desperately trying to recreate the taste and texture of a soup we were served at school one cold evening.

While the thankthuk was delicious, I wasn't going to be satisfied until I found the recipe for the thick savoury soup that Yangchen cooked for us. So, what to do but go right to the source for a cooking lesson!

Fortunately Yangchen is the mother of one of my students and she was more than happy to share her recipe for Bagthuk (Ba- thuk) this afternoon in her kitchen while Kuenzang kept up a constant flow of conversation!

What makes this soup so full of flavour are two unique ingredients: dried garlic chives (I'm guessing that's what they are, and I hope fresh garlic chives are a good substitute) and thingey (szechuan peppercorn). Both are added at the last moment and it's amazing how they lift the soup from a bit bland and ordinary to zingy and rich with savoury flavour. Don't even think about making the soup until you can get your hands on these flavourings.

When I made it myself this evening I omitted the MSG as it gets a bad rap in Australia although after reading this article maybe it's time to reconsider it? I didn't notice it's absence, so either way it doesn't matter too much. I also substituted sliced daikon radish for the potato as I've seen this done here. It was tasty but I think the potatoes add to the thickness and texture of the soup, so I'll be making it that way next time.

Kuenzang was very excited to give me a birthday present: a beautiful handmade yathra (woven wool) bag.

 Yangchen's Bagthuk - serves 4
4 medium potatoes peeled and sliced about 5mm thick in rounds
1 tomato chopped
2 cups plain flour + extra for dusting
1 tsp salt or more to taste
*Dried garlic chives (or fresh garlic chives sliced in 3 cm lengths)
1 large garlic clove crushed
*1tsp thingey (szechuan peppercorn, crushed in a mortar and pestle)
1-2 tsp red chilli powder or to taste
*optional - tasting powder' (aka MSG)
2 tbs vegetable oil
1. Place flour in a large mixing bowl and add enough water to make a soft pliable dough. Knead the dough for 4 minutes until elastic and leave aside.
2. Place sliced potatoes and tomatoes in a large pot and add one litre of water. Cover and bring to the boil.
3. Take a small handful of dough and roll out with a rolling pin on a flat surface dusted with flour. Make a fairly thin, large circle.
Rolling the dough.
4. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into two semicircles. Lay one half on the cutting board with the straight side facing you. Cut strips about 1cm wide from the curved edge to the straight edge creating noodles.
5. Gently place these noodles in a bowl that has been generously dusted with flour (about 1 tablespoon of plain flour).
6. As each handsized ball is made into noodles, sprinkle them into the pot of boiling soup along with the flour in the bowl.Continue making noodles in this way until all the dough is used.
7.Once all noodles have been added to the pot, continue boiling soup for another ten minutes. Stir occassionally so noodles don't clump together. Check the noodles: when they are glossy and have no flour residue they are cooked.
8. Add chilli powder and garlic. Check for seasoning and add more salt and tasting powder if desired.
9. While soup continues to cook, heat oil in a small frypan until very hot. Add the dried garlic chives and stir to coat in oil and cook for 2 minutes until they start to brown.
10. Turn heat off from the soup and add fried garlic chives carefully (they will splutter when they hit the soup). Add crushed thingey and the bagthuk is ready to serve!
The perfect way to add warmth and sustenance to the body on a cold winter's afternoon.
Choe thukpa zhimbe ga?   Do you think the soup is delicious?
You can reply 'Zhimbe!' with the gesture of putting an index finger against your cheek (where a dimple would be) and gently twist it.
Thank you so much Yangchen for letting me come into your kitchen and kindly sharing your recipe with me. I can see this will be a winter staple in our home in Australia for years to come.


  1. Thanks for that Andrea I have added it to my recipe file for Bhutan (and other places ) and soon there will be more of your recipes than mine in there I look forward to trying it myself when I next have a kitchen to work with

    1. I thought you'd like this one, I remember we talked about our love of thukpa. Won't be long Vicky, althought not sure how much 'winter warming' you'll need?!

  2. I really enjoyed every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post in the future.

    North Vancouver tour

    1. Thank you! I'm hoping to post at least one more Bhutanese recipe before we leave.

  3. Thank you Andrea! I want to try making it! As soon as I find the szechuan peppercorn that is!

  4. I had My first shopping trip in Australia yesterday and szechuan peppercorns were top on the list. They are available at all Asian grocery shops.

  5. yummy and delicious recipe! great and meaningful information, and helpful blog. thank you restaurants in south delhi