All posts filed under “QUICK

comment 0

PERU: Sopa Minuta

PERU: Sopa Minuta

IMG_3945We were super excited to draw Peru out of the cup just a couple of weeks before we were to leave for 3 weeks in Peru!   We had a FANTASTIC time and saw, learned, and experienced so much – including hiking the Inca trail where the boys earned from the various guides on the trail the nickname “Alpacitos” (baby alpacas – as opposed to baby goats) as they scampered along.

While the boys love exploring Cusco – a city full of Incan history, colonial balconies, and (very) thin air…IMG_3580…they both REALLY loved Lima – a city full of gorgeous buildings, ceviche, public parks, and (the pièce de résistance) an arcade in the mall across the street from the hotel we stayed in.  They want to move there… to the hotel that is.    I wouldn’t mind either.  (Shout out to Christian from the JW Marriott… if you’re reading this – you made our stay in Lima so fun!  So fun connecting with another foodie!)


See that flag above the boys? It’s on the hostel I stayed in 20 years ago. We stopped in to see if they still have peacocks on the roof. Yes, they do. Also, the boys were beyond fascinated by the crypts under the yellow church (Catedral San Francisco) and the hundreds of thousands of bones on display. Boys.


One of the highlights of our trip was visiting a small farming village about an hour outside of Cusco where 32 families live and farm at 14,000 feet elevation.  The primary language is Quechua (the language of the Inca) and many of the children don’t have the opportunity to attend school as they are busy working the fields.  That said, there is an organization there now that has set up a fantastic school (one room, 40 kids ranging from 6-16, one teacher!) where the kids are learning to read and write in Spanish and English, taught computer skills, and provided a safe space to learn and study.  It was amazing and humbling to see what the teachers and kids are able to accomplish with so little.  That said, they need so much and we will be publishing a list of their needs and how you can help these kids.  Stay tuned for more information.


The boys in red next to Beckett are the same age as him.  Look how TALL Beckett is by comparison! The local boys were fascinated by the “giant boy in glasses”.



Meanwhile, Calvin made quick friends through the universal language of drawing cartoons.



While we visited the school, the moms prepared a lesson for us in sheering sheep + alpacas, making yarn, dying the yarn and lastly weaving the materials.

If any of your are planning to travel to Peru with your kids, I have so much advice!  Just send me an email and I’ll send you all my thoughts.



2014_12_soop_peru-15Alrighty, on to the soup.  We chose “Sopa Minuta” a classic soup loved throughout much of Peru for it’s ease, simplicity, and speed.  It is found on menus all over the country and know by most everyone.  That said, as we traveled through different parts of the country, the boys would make new friends and chat them up about our soup project and the response was invariably, “oh yes, Sopa Minuta is good, but you should really make……”.   In fact, one hotel we stayed at, even surprised us by giving us a recipe to add to our roster.  So sweet!

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 3.54.39 PMSo, we just might have to repeat Peru a few times until we find our favorites.  We’ll have to add “Quinua Soap” (aka Quinoa Soup), Chupe de Quinoa, and Moraya (dried potato soup).  Look for those soups at some point during this project.

Anyway,  like I said, Sopa Minuta is made all over the country and is made differently by each household- much like chicken noodle soup here in the US.  We had it a few times in different places in Peru and it was drastically different – some include tomato sauce, some milk; some include ground beef, others chunks of sirloin.  That said, the common ingredients are noodles (I use rice noodles to make it GF), beef, oregano, and a Peruvian chile paste made from aji panca.  If you can’t find it in any of your local Hispanic markets, you can purchase it online.  It is not spicy, but provides THE flavor for the soup.  There is no substitute, so do yourself a favor and find a jar somewhere because once you try this, you will want to make it over and over.  Plus, you can use it in the “quinua soap” recipe above.  🙂

This soup comes together in about 15 minutes and is hearty and filling enough for a quick weeknight meal.  Pair this with a little salad (and maybe a pisco sour or two) and you’re all set!

2014_12_soop_peru-1Sopa Minuta
Serves 4


  • 2 teaspoons neutral oil – sunflower,  canola, etc
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves  garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons aji panca paste
  • 1 pound ground beef  – or sirloin cut into cubes if your prefer
  • 1/2 tablespoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 6 cups hot water
  • 2 tablespoons GF tamari – or regular soy sauce if you can eat it
  • 1/2 pound angel hair pasta (I use THIS brand and cannot tell it’s not regular pasta).
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream


  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute about 8 minutes or until golden brown. Add tomato and aji panca pastes and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.2014_12_soop_peru-5
  2. Crumble the beef into the onion mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through.2014_12_soop_peru-8
  3. Pour hot water into the mixture and add soy sauce simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the noodles and cook for 4 minutes.2014_12_soop_peru-11
  5. While noodles are cooking, crack eggs into a cup and stir until well blended. (Make sure you don’t accidentally get shells in there!)  Then gently stir eggs into soup – stirring continuously.  Eggs will form long thin noodle like strings (like an egg drop soup).2014_12_soop_peru-9 2014_12_soop_peru-102014_12_soop_peru-12
  6. Remove from heat season the mixture with oregano and salt + pepper (to taste).2014_12_soop_peru-13
  7. Add cream and serve.

Cook’s Notes

This recipe ended up on all of our favorites list and will be on repeat at our house frequently.  It’s very savory and comforting.  My #1 of all so far!

comment 0

TANZANIA: Curried Banana + Fish Soup (Ndizi na Samaki)

TANZANIA: Curried Banana + Fish Soup (Ndizi na Samaki)


We are BAAAAAACK!  Thank you for your patience as we took a month off to explore South America, get and recover from the flu, and take a week long business trip (a few of those things simultaneously).   I’ll be getting Peru and Swaziland online asap and we have Cyprus cued up for this weekend.

If you haven’t done so already, please follow me on Facebook where I post news, photos, sneak peaks, new friends, updates, and other soupy things.

Okay, without further ado, here’s what we learned about Tanzania :

  •  Since one of our life goals as a family is to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, we will be visiting Tanzania some day.
  • As independent countries, Tanzania (and one of its provinces Zanzibar) are both just slightly older than my husband.
  • Tanzania has 2 different capital cities.  Dar Es Salaam is the former capital, but still maintains its place as the capital in the hearts of Tanzanians; Dodoma is the new administrative capital.
  • Here’s a fun website with lots of food info if you’re keen on cooking more Tanzanian fare
  • While “Hakuna Matata” is well known to us westerners, the phrase is uncommon among native speakers of Swahili in Tanzania, who prefer the phrase “hamna shida” in the north and “hamna tabu” in the south.
  • I found this music video out of Tanzania to be a really interesting study of the different classes in the country.  Cheesy/romantic, yes… but it’s fascinating to see how the street scenes and lifestyles are depicted.
  • Finally, Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, has a thriving street food scene which Anthony Bourdain was kind enough to test out for me until I’m able to get there myself.


Although it was quite a different flavor profile than we are used to, this was a winner.   It was pretty spicy, which I loved, but I might decrease the spice next time to make it more friendly to sensitive palates.  I’d also love to try this with shrimp next time.


Hooray! My parents were here for a visit and joined us in Tanzania. Thumbs up from them!
Papi said beer was the perfect thing to wash it down with!



Curried Banana + Fish Soup (Ndizi na Samaki)
Serves 6


  • 2 lb flaky white fish (I used tilapia)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 15oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup unsweetened dried coconut
  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced into 1/2 inch chunks
  • Cooked white rice and cilantro, optional


  1. Season tilapia with fresh black pepper and salt.
  2. In a large soup pot, heat oil and saute onions until translucent and tender.2014_12_soop_tanzania-6
  3. Add garlic, curry powder, and red pepper flakes and fry for 2 more minutes.2014_12_soop_tanzania-7
  4. Add the fish, stock, tomatoes and coconut, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes – stirring occasionally to break up fish into large chunks.2014_12_soop_tanzania-8
  5. Add banana and simmer 10 additional minutes.2014_12_soop_tanzania-9
  6. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls over white rice and garnish with cilantro for a bit of color if desired.

Cook’s Notes

This is relatively spicy as prepared with the full 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes.  The boys both said they would have liked it if it hadn’t be so spicy.  If you’re making this for kids, you could just omit the red pepper and allow people to add it to their bowls if they want a bit of a kick.

comment 0

JAPAN: Toshikoshi – Soba Noodle Soup 年越しそば

JAPAN: Toshikoshi – Soba Noodle Soup 年越しそば

soop_japan_1114-8Here’s what we learned about Japan in  our research this week:

  •  Buckwheat noodles (soba) are traditionally eaten in Japan at midnight on New Year’s eve.    According to wikipedia, “the tradition started around Edo period (1603-1867) and there are several theories believed that long soba noodles symbolize a long life.”
  • A recent study revealed that approximately 50% of Japanese citizens eat toshikoshi soba on New Year’s eve.
  • While buckwheat is gluten free, many soba noodles are made with both buckwheat and regular wheat.  Check the packages carefully to find 100% buckwheat noodles if you eat gluten-free.

Here is a fun video showing you how easy toshikoshi soba is to make and how fun it is to say.


Remember back when Beckett chose Nsusu and Fufu because he could run around yelling those two words at the top of his lungs?  Anyone want to guess why we made toshikoshi soba this week? 

That only went on for 20 minutes or so.  No idea why schnitzel was part of his chant.  Anyway, our first attempt at toshikoshi soba was a complete flop and rendered utterly inedible due to the insane amounts of salt.  Luckily, we had also made sushi and, since Dungeness crab season just started, a cucumber crab salad, so we didn’t go hungry.  Plus, our friends arrived with fun Japanese sodas that had the kids so entranced, they barely noticed the food at all.soop_japan_1114-12Refusing to accept defeat, I retooled the recipe and nailed it this morning.    The fun part of toshikoshi is that you can add whatever floats your boat to the soup.  The first night (pictured here) included some leftover pork loin we had in the fridge, enoki mushrooms, and fish cakes.  This morning, we used shiitake mushrooms, spinach, and eggs (pictured at the bottom of this post).  The most important part of this soup is the broth and the noodles – the rest is just fun creation.  If you have kids who aren’t so sure about trying new “ethnic” foods, a nice way to introduce them to Japanese food might be to make toshikoshi and allow them to put in whatever toppings they would like (like taco night only with Japanese soup!).


Toshikoshi – Soba Noodle Soup 年越しそば
Serves 4


    • 8 cups water
    • 1 oz sliced dried shiitake mushrooms
    • 2 teaspoons HonDashi bonito soup stock granules *
    • 1/2 cup tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
    • 1/2 cup mirin
    • 1 tablespoon sugar (more to taste)
    • 200g package soba 100% buckwheat noodles
    • 2 large handfuls baby spinach leaves, optional
    • 2 eggs, soft boiled, peeled and cut in half lengthwise, optional
    • 4 green onions, sliced thin
    • 1 package Enoki mushrooms, ends trimmed and separated, optional
    • 6 ounce log fish cake, sliced into thin half moons, optional **
    • Cooked pork loin slices, optional
    • Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese pepper spice)


  1. In a large soup pot, bring water, shiitake mushrooms, and HonDashi to a boil.  Add tamari, mirin, and sugar.  Reduce heat to simmer and cover.soop_japan_1114-2
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the soba noodles and cook until al dente – approximately 8 minutes.  Drain noodles and rinse well under cold water to remove any excess starch.soop_japan_1114-5
  3. While noodles cook, prepare all garnishes.soop_japan_1114-3
  4. Prepare bowls by adding noodles and garnishes to bowls.soop_japan_1114-11
  5. Add spinach to broth and cook until wilted.  Gently ladle spinach and broth onto noodles and garnishes.  Serve with Shichimi Mogarashi if you like things spicy.photosoop_japan_1114-10

Cook’s Notes

*  HonDashi is a flavor additive that contains fish and msg among other things and gives a very rich umami flavor.  You can make your own dashi if you prefer or you can substitute the dashi with salt.

** Many types of Japanese fish cakes contain gluten.  Be sure to read the packages carefully.

comment 0

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Curried Coconut and Lime Gourd Soup

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Curried Coconut and Lime Gourd Soup


Here’s what we learned about the Solomon Islands in  our research this week:

  • There are around 1000 islands that make up the country and over 70 unique languages spoken.
  • It is believed that people have lived on the Solomon Islands for over 4000 years.
  • Due to global warming, the sea level in the Solomon Islands has been rising by eight millimetres per year compared to the global average of 2.8 to 3.6 mm
  • The Solomon Islands gained independence from Britain in 1978 – making the country younger than me.
  • While very dark skinned, 5-10% of Solomon Islanders carry a gene for blond hair!
  • I really want to go there someday.



There is precious little to be found about soups from the Solomon Islands online.  I tried reaching out to resorts on the islands for guidance, but finally found what I was looking for by browsing the online menus of the various restaurants of the many resorts on the islands.  I saw a few soups repeated – vegetable curry and pumpkin curry – so I ran with that idea.

Since everything I could find about the cuisine of the Solomon Islands talked about fish, fish, and more fish, I used fish stock in my soup, but this could be vegan by using vegetable stock.  The real key to this soup is the Madras curry powder (which also happens to be SUPER good on popcorn).  I found it at Safeway, so I’m guessing it should be pretty easy to find.  It contains salt, so if you use a different curry powder, you’ll probably want to add some salt to your soup.


So, I worked sans sous chef today.  Here’s the math:

  • Sleepover + Sensitive/temperamental child= Sleep-deprived grumpy kid
  • Sleep-deprived grumpy kid + Homework packets = Epic battle
  • Epic battle + First time trying out the word “sucks” = Banishment to room until said homework packets were completed and a reflection about the kind of language we use in our family was written
  • Banishment to room until said homework packets were completed and a reflection about the kind of language we use in our family was written + Need to make/eat soup = No sous chef

He did, however, manage to smile just once yesterday… but only because I told him to do so and (for the only time yesterday) he did what I asked.   That smile, while it looks so genuine, disappeared immediately when I put down the camera and the “you’re the meanest mom in the world” routine continued.  Sigh.  His big brother, on the other hand, was thrilled with flying under the radar for the day, but not so thrilled with the soup.  As he put it, “Mama, I’m just not a gourd guy.”    Duly noted.

soop_solomon_nov14-5Okay, so parenting challenges aside, I thought this was outstanding.  By using Trader Joes’ pre-cut & pre-peeled butternut squash cubes the hardest part of this soup was mincing all the shallots & the ginger.  If I wanted to REALLY wanted to speed this up, I could use my mini food processor and throw everything in there to mince and this recipe would REALLY be a snap.  This took about 30 minutes from start to finish and hit every mark for me – comforting, bright flavors, ever so slightly spicy, healthy, quick, easy and unique.  We served it garnished with jalapeño and basil with grilled fish and jasmine rice on the side.  I could eat this for lunch every day and be a happy, happy camper.


Curried Coconut and Lime Gourd Soup
Serves 8


    • 2 tablespoons canola (or other neutral) oil
    • 1 cup shallots, chopped (approximately 4 large shallots)
    • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 4 lbs butternut squash, pumpkin, or other orange fleshed gourd, peeled and chopped*
    • 4 cups fish stock or vegetable
    • 2 cups water
    • 3 tablespoons Madras curry powder*
    • 1 can light coconut milk
    • juice of one lime


  1. Warm the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the shallots and cool until softened- approximately 3 minutes.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant  being very careful not to allow the garlic to burn – approximately 1 minute.soop_solomon_nov14-2
  2. Add the gourd, stock, and water and bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the gourd is tender when pierced with a fork – approximately 30 minutes.soop_solomon_nov14-3
  3. When gourd is tender, using a blender, food processor, or immersion blender puree soup until smooth.soop_solomon_nov14-4
  4. Stir in curry powder, coconut milk and lime juice.  Adjust seasoning – adding more salt if necessary – and serve topped with cilantro leaves, basil leaves, jalapeño slices or anything green and pretty.

Cook’s Notes

Trader Joes carries butternut squash already peeled and chopped into 1″ cubes.  Crazy convenient.

Madras curry has salt added to it.  If you use a different type of curry powder, you will need to add salt to your soup.

comment 0

USA: Chicken Noodle Soup

USA: “Hangover” Chicken Noodle Soup


I was a little chagrined when Calvin drew USA so early in the game, but so be it.  And the obvious answer to “what is the classic soup from the USA?”?  Chicken Noodle, of course.  But, let’s face it; everyone and their mother has a chicken noodle soup recipe.  So for this week, I can either try to find the most traditional recipe ever or off road a little bit and reinvent the wheel perhaps.  So, being the, er, quirky gal I am, I’m off-roading.  Without further ado, I present you with the chicken noodle soup I cooked in undergrad whenever I had a hangover.  (Since this is for and with the kids, I won’t mention how frequently I cooked this soup.)

It all started with a hangover and the need/desire for something comforting to my brain and my stomach.  Opening the fridge revealed standard chicken noodle soup fixings (except the carrots which I didn’t have) and as I had been fairly unkind to my body the night before I decided to  throw in a little bit of everything green I had in there.  And “hangover soup” was born.  It’s a little bit crunchy, a little bit tangy,  a lot of green, and a lot of good.  Oh, and it works. Hangovers (or colds for that matter)  be gone!soop_USA_sept14-33

“Hangover” Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves 4


    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1.5 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
    • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
    • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
    • 4 stalks celery, sliced into 1/4″ half moons
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1 tablespoon fresh black pepper
    • 8 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
    • 1 cup dried pasta of your choice (we used Jovial gluten free fusilli)
    • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley (including stems), minced
    • 1 cup celery, minced
    • juice of 3 limes
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • lime wedges to serve


  1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil on medium. Generously salt and pepper both sides of chicken thighs. Brown chicken until both sides are browned, about 5 minutes a side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.soop_USA_sept14-34soop_USA_sept14-35soop_USA_sept14-1
  2. In the same pan add onions and saute on low until translucent. Add garlic, celery, and herbs. Saute  for about 8 minutes. Add chicken broth and let simmer for 15 minutes.soop_USA_sept14-13
  3. Meanwhile shred chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add meat and any juices that may have settled in the plate to the simmering broth. Once chicken has been added and is cooked through, allow another 15 minutes of simmer time for flavors to merge.soop_USA_sept14-4
  4. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to directions – removing it from hot water when it is quite al dente.  (We did a taste test of various GF pastas and found that Jovial’s brown rice pasta held up wonderfully and was everything we wanted in our chicken noodle soup.  Trader joes’ brown rice/quinoa pasta was a close 2nd.)soop_USA_sept14-7
  5. Add fresh parsley, celery, and lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper as needed to taste.  To serve, add pasta to bowl and top with soup.

    You see that jersey Calvin is wearing? Balotelli is and Italian soccer player nicknamed Super Mario by fans because of his surprising actions on and off the field. Like Balotelli, like Calvin. I think we have a new nickname for him.


    Pre-meal taste testing gets two thumbs up and a tongue.


Nearly 9 years ago, when I was heavily pregnant with Calvin and Beckett was only 18 months old, I was still working as a wedding photographer and was having a hard time keeping up with life.  I posted an ad on craigslist for a mother’s helper and an angel responded.  Auntie Edie walked into our house and hearts and our life has been so much richer ever since.

So, when Calvin drew the USA, I posted on facebook asking my friends for the best ever chicken noodle soup recipe and Auntie Edie responded with how she makes hers.  Today’s soup version is an amalgam of my hangover cure made with her grown up technique (aka: a technique I never could have accomplished in undergrad – especially not with an hangover).  When I was in school, I just used canned chicken stock and boiled chicken breasts in the broth before shredding it.  It was good, but Auntie Edie’s technique of browning chicken thighs in the pan first made our soup so much richer and more umphy (my made up word of the day to describe good).  Thumbs up Auntie Edie – this version is sure to become a staple in our house. soop_USA_sept14-17

Thanks for joining us Auntie Edie and for making our lives so much more umphy!

A hangover is not required to enjoy this soup.  Hangover soup freezes really well.  Just leave out the pasta and make some fresh when you defrost the soup.  This soup is also really great with rice, quinoa, or no grains whatsoever.  I will occasionally also throw in a handful or two of spinach, baby kale, or chard if I have it on hand.  You can’t go wrong really – just toss in whatever veggies you love.

comment 0

NEPAL: Chicken Thukpa

NEPAL: Thukpa


Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 2.21.51 PM  When my husband and I spent a dreamy month in Nepa before we got married (15 years ago!), our favorite meal was also (luckily) the meal we ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner: Dal Bhat*.  Dal Bhat, a lentil stew served with rice, is every backpacker’s staple fare and the national dish of Nepal.  Hearty, filling, and warming, it hits the spot after a long day of trekking.  We love(d) it so much it also hits the spot about once a month in our house.  SO, for our SOOP project this week, S is in charge of picking the soup and when I suggested Dal Bhat, he said “No way!  We have that allllllll the time.  I want to pick something different.”  Per the rules I made for myself for how this whole project will work, the boy who picks the country out of the cup also gets to pick the soup.  And pick he did.  The boy loves spring rolls and picked Thukpa because he says it sounds like spring roll soup.

*Dal Bhat is insanely delicious and Sasha over at Global Table Adventure has a fantastic recipe that is quick, CHEAP, really close to how it tastes in Nepal and vegetarian.  We eat it with basmati rice, roasted cauliflower florets that have been tossed in olive oil and curry powder, and usually a green salad.  Mmm.  Now I’m hungry.  Might have to make this for dinner tomorrow!

Thukpa, traditionally a Tibetan soup (the name translates from Tibetan as ‘noodles’),  has crossed the border into Nepal with wild abandon and is now popular all over Nepal as well as northern India.  It consists of spicy broth, long thin noodles, vegetables, spices, and is found vegetarian and with every meat you can imagine (in fact, I think we may have eaten this with yak meat in Kathmandu).  For our version, S chose chicken, rice noodles (to remain close to his spring roll vision), and carrots and cilantro.  I threw in the red pepper and bean sprouts (both traditional additions) for color and texture.  A few of the spices are a little hard to come by, but we’re fortunate to have many places to scoop up ethnic goods around us and we grabbed asafoetida and szechwan pepper at Oaktown Spice Shop in Oakland, but you can also find the spices online at Penzeys and Kalustyan’s.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 2.23.22 PM

1999 Mustang, Nepal Trek Day 7: Marang (Chogo) La Pass – 13,878 feet / 4,230 meters. I hiked in a skirt to be more respectful of the local culture. I looked goooood didn’t I?

During our month in Nepal, we spent many long hours with our guides learning about Nepali cuisine, culture and language and teaching them important things like the game of spoons and various card tricks.  A few of the phrases we learned have stuck with us through the years and my husband is known to say to me as I approach some arduous task (hiking up a steep trail, folding the week’s laundry, getting the kids in the car on time in the morning), “Lahk bahk, didi.  Lahk bahk!”  (Translation almost there, big sister.  Almost there!).  Another phrase we use all the time is “Ookus mookus”.  It means, essentially, I am so full I am about to explode.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 2.18.01 PM

From the left, the King of Mustang, our government liaison, us, and our guide Bhim Bahadur Lama. Jigme Palbar Bista, the last king of the remote kingdom of Mustang in Nepal’s Himalayas, was born around 1930 in Lo Manthang, once the capital of the former Tibetan kingdom of Lo. The youngest son of King Angun Tenzing Tandul, he inherited the throne in 1964. He likes orange Tang and is most grateful if you bring him some when visiting.

So, friends, with that we’ll get to cooking and (hopefully) by the end we will all be Ookus mookus!  To really get in the mood, create a Pandora station with the artist Udit Narayan or download THIS album.  We bought this album on the streets of Kathmandu and listened to it during both of our boys’ births and groove out to it all the time.  I hope you like it as much as we do.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 2.24.56 PM

1999 Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu and rain clouds in the background. We got very wet that day.


Nepalese Thukpa
Serving: 4-6

Spice paste

    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • ½ tsp ground turmeric
    • ¼ tsp ground Szechwan pepper
    • 1 pinch asafoetida powder
    • 1-3  jalapeño chili, deseeded, chopped (depending on how spicy you want it)
    • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
    • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
    • 1 large tomato, chopped


      • 1 tbsp ghee
      • 8 cups chicken stock
      • ½ lb skinless/boneless chicken thighs
      • 300 g rice noodles
      • 1 large carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
      • ½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
      • 1 cup mung bean sprouts
      • 1 tbsp lemon juice
      • salt and pepper, to taste
      • chopped cilantro, to serve
      • nepali chili sauce, to serve (recipe below)


      1. To make the spice paste, combine all the ingredients, except the tomatoes, in a blender or food processor and process until minced. Then add the tomatoes and process again until combined into a rough paste.soop_nepal_sept14-21soop_nepal_sept14-28
      1. Heat the ghee in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, until quite aromatic and the paste becomes soft.soop_nepal_sept14-29
      1.     Carefully pour in the chicken stock (it may sizzle at first) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the chicken thighs and simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the stock and roughly shred.soop_nepal_sept14-35
      1.  Meanwhile, bring large pot of water to boil. Add rice noodles and cook for 2 minutes or until al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water. Drain again and set aside.soop_nepal_sept14-32soop_nepal_sept14-34
      1. Add the carrot, bell pepper, and mung bean sprouts to the soup and simmer for 2–3 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender.soop_nepal_sept14-39
      1. Add lemon juice and season to taste – adding more salt or pepper as necessary.
      1. Divide the noodles between bowls (for pretty presentation, mound the noodles all on one side of the bowl) and top with the shredded chicken. Ladle the stock and vegetables over the noodles and top with chopped cilantro. Serve with chili sauce.soop_nepal_sept14-38

* Asafoetida and Szechwan pepper can generally both be found in spice stores online as well as local Indian markets. The traditional pepper used in Nepali Thukpa (timur) is currently unavailable in the United States, but Szechwan pepper provides a similar tongue tingling spice. Traditionally, it is served with a vinegary chili sauce.  Here is the one we made and used:

Garlicky Red Chili Hot Sauce (pictured above with the ingredients for Thukpa)
Yield: 2 cups (aka: enough to last you a very, very, very long time)
Recipe by Melissa Clark printed in the NYTimes 8/25/10

    • 4 hot red or orange chili peppers, such as habañero
    • 2 red bell peppers (3/4 pound), roughly chopped
    • 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
    • 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
    1. Wearing rubber or latex gloves, roughly chop the chilies. Combine all ingredients in a small pot over medium-high heat. Once mixture is simmering, reduce heat to low, cover and continue to simmer until peppers are tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Do not inhale vapors; they will sting.
    2. Transfer mixture to a blender and purée. Pour into a medium jar and allow to cool uncovered. Cover tightly and refrigerate for three days. Keep stored in refrigerator; sauce will last for several weeks or months.


This is officially my first favorite soup.  It was quick, flavorful, filling, inexpensive, and fun.  We found that the Chili sauce was absolutely necessary for the tongue tingling fun.  If you don’t have the time or the desire to make your own, sriracha would be a nice option.

Our good friends joined us as we blasted Bollywood tunes, and slurped noodles to our hearts content.  Our thukpa was served on the metal plates we picked up years ago in India with basmati rice, melon, and a chopped cauliflower that we roasted in the oven with a couple boxes of Trader Joes’ frozen chana masala (chickpea curry).  It’s one of my favorite Trader Joe’s dinner hacks.  Our meal got 3 thumbs up and one medium thumb (perhaps because it was his brother who made it and he simply can’t approve of anything his brother does right now) so I’m going to say it was a success!



soop_nepal_sept14-44After dinner, we pulled out our slide projector and, once we finished answering the questions about what a slide projector is and how our photos are on the little pieces of plastic (called film),  ran through some of the hundreds of slides we took in Nepal.  What a wonderful way to cap off the night – the boys learned more about Nepal, about our trip, and about the history of photography.


Oh, the irony. We covered our TV with a white sheet to be able to show our slides. We are so retro that way!