Soup’s On: Spicy Tibet’s Beef Thenthuk
I will admit that I haven’t stepped too far out of my Thai, Mexican, and Chinese comfort zone with soups. At prime lunch time, I walk right past Ecuadorian and Peruvian chalkboards listing a sopa or two and I can never bring myself to take a chance. I’m scared of bland chicken and over-boiled beef.
Himalayan? I’m getting there. The thenthuk at newish Spicy Tibet is ok. It did its job, to warm me up and fill the space in my stomach that leftover Cheetos broccoli and clementines didn’t earlier. If I wasn’t on a soup-seeking mission, though, I would’ve preferred trying the tripe or blood sausage or even the chopsuey, described as “American.”
This soup is all about the starch–and there is a lot of it. I was almost knocked-out by the thick, fat ribbons of hand-formed noodles that are the focus. The broth was light and more garlicky than anything with some baby bok choy slithering around for greenery, plus a few small strips of beef and a touch of cilantro.
You can punch it up with a thick, orange hot sauce that’s presented in a squeeze bottle (as opposed to the chile oil in a glass container that sits on each table by default). It’s grungy and hot in that dirty way that implies dried chile origins rather than fresh (though the bright color indicates otherwise). Some might say earthy.
In my limited experience with Himalayan food, I would say starch prominent with some meaty accents on the side or stuffed in dough. A mother and daughter plowed through a plate of momos (steamed dumplings) tingmo (steamed buns) and something doughy and fried golden, which by the end had the teenager declaring “I’m sleepy.” Me too!
I may have been saved by yak-buttered tea, the Himalayan answer to Bulletproof coffee that’s free for the taking at a plastic dispenser near the cash register. Though it wasn’t the point, the hot beverage lent a pleasant, saltiness and creaminess to the soup. In fact, it was the buttered tea that stuck with me as I trudged home through the icy slush, completely fortified and toasty. Maybe there’s something to this drinking melted butter business, after all?
Spicy Tibet * 75-04 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, NY