Thukpa: Thimphu’s street food?

Thimphu is in the throes of cold weather. One way to fend off the cold is by treating yourself with many a cups of hot and comforting Thukpa that is gaining immense popularity in the streets of Thimphu.

Our reporter, Sonam Lhamo, says the slow-cooked comfort food, has found its place in the heart of Thimphu dwellers as it represents symbolic significance of Bhutanese culture apart from being tasty.

One of the Thimphu residents, she spoke to said, whenever he misses home, he comes to eat Thukpa, the street food hawkers sell in Norzin Lam. Families in Bhutan prepare Thukpa during special occasions, such as Losar.

“It takes about four hours for Thukpa to be perfectly cooked,” said Tashi Dolkar, 45, who has been selling Thukpa in the street of Thimphu for about four months now.

She starts boiling the beef bones at 3 PM on a slow heat. After an hour is up, she adds rice and lets it simmer while constantly stirring. “We have to keep adding hot water to the broth otherwise it will turn thick and lumpy”. At 7 PM, Tashi pounds ginger and adds it to the broth. She also adds salt to taste, a dash of Sichuan pepper, and chili powder, brings the broth to a boil before turning off the heat.

she is all set to hit the street.

Tashi Dolkar is one of the many Thukpa sellers, found in the street of Thimphu, mainly along the Norzin Lam, at night. A mother of five, Tashi Dolkar, says she started selling Thukpa so to be able to raise her children and give them proper education.

Others have similar stories to share. Tshering Chenzom, another street hawker, said she comes to the town by 9 in the evening. “I stay till 2 to 3 in the morning.”

Despite the popularity, selling anything along the street is illegal since it falls under unlicensed business, according to the Thimphu Thompon, Kinlay Dorjee. “But it is difficult to monitor the street hawkers, especially after hours” Thukpa sellers, on the other hand, are undeterred. In fact the number has grown making the trade more competitive.

Their business thrives on Drayang visitors and partygoers. Most of them stay till the discotheques and Drayangs are closed. But there is a flipside to the story. “Many of them are drunk. They don’t pay us. Some of the even threaten us,” said Shekar Lam, another Thukpa seller.

For Tashi and others, the biggest challenge is to stay out the whole night in the cold. Average minimum temperature in Thimphu dip as low as -6°C. “I don’t have any options. I have to earn to support my family,” said Sherub.

As the night starts getting colder, they make a bonfire to keep themselves warm, with a few of them watching out for the police patrolling team. Making bonfires in the middle of the town is not allowed.

It is 2:30 in the morning, and time for Tashi to head home. Business wasn’t as good for her that particular night. But she is optimistic and says they earn as much as Nu.5,000 on special occasions and during the time of celebrations. Before she heads home, she cleans the surrounding along with others.

Source & References

Lhamo, S. 2014. Thukpa: Thimphu’s street food?. [online] 12 Jan. Available at: http://www.bbs.bt/news/?p=36017 [Accessed: 20 Jan 2014].

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