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Sherpa noodle soup (thukpa)

This Nepali soup recipe by Santosh Shah is laced with the uplifting warmth of cumin, turmeric and timmur peppercorns.

Thukpa is a soup shared by both Nepali and Tibetan Sherpa communities. To handle the freezing winters in high altitude, their diet is heavily based on carbohydrates. The soup is laced with the uplifting warmth of cumin, turmeric and timmur peppercorns. Some cooks add cornflour to thicken the soup but I prefer a thinner broth with my noodles.

This recipe is from ‘Ayla: A Feast of Nepali Dishes from Terai, Hills and the Himalayas’ by Santosh Shah (DK). 


Serves 4


100g (3½oz) soba noodles, or egg noodles
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon hing (asafoetida)
300g (10½oz) free-range chicken breast, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
50g (scant ½ cup) finely chopped carrots
180g (11⁄3 cups) finely chopped mixed (bell) peppers
50g (1⁄3 cup) thinly sliced green French beans
80g (11⁄3 cups) finely shredded white cabbage
1 teaspoon salt
800ml (31⁄3 cups) chicken stock
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
1 lemon, quartered, to serve (optional)

For the spice paste

1 large garlic clove
4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
4 fresh green chillies, roughly chopped
½ tablespoon cumin seeds, dry roasted
5 timmur peppercorns, or Sichuan peppercorns
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped
1 small tomato, deseeded and chopped
  1. Method

    Step 1

    Start by making the spice paste. Place all the ingredients for the spice paste except the tomato in a small food processor or electric spice grinder. Blend until you get a paste. Add the chopped tomato and blend again. You should get a smooth spoonable paste. You can make this paste in advance and keep it in the refrigerator for 2–3 days or in the freezer for 1 month.

    Step 2

    Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions and set aside.

    Step 3

    Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the hing and cook for a few seconds. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes, until slightly golden. Add the turmeric and cook for 1 minute.

    Step 4

    Add all the vegetables and stir-fry for a couple of minutes. Stir in the salt and spice paste until all the ingredients are well coated. Cook for a couple of minutes.

    Step 5

    Pour in the chicken stock, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the noodles and cook for a couple of minutes, just enough to reheat them.

    Step 6

    Adjust the seasoning to taste, add the chopped coriander and serve with lemon quarters for squeezing over.