Soup Guthuk is a Tibetan traditional meal served two days before the Tibetan New Year called Losar. To put it in a nutshell, it’s a vegetable soup with pieces of meat and homemade noodles. You can add any kind of veggies that you like. I know it doesn’t really sound sophisticated but think about it this way – if you live on The Roof of the World somewhere in the Himalayas, you can’t really pop into Walmart and pick what you want…
What shouldn’t miss in Guthuk, though, is meat, onion, garlic, and cabbage (or any kind of salad). During the winter in India, carrots, fresh green pea, white raddish, and cauliflower are available all of which are excellent choices for the soup. So it’s entirely up to you which veggies you’re going to use. Since I’m a vegetarian, I skip meat and make pure veg soup which is equally delicious.
The Tibetan word guthuk consists of two words: gu (nine) and thuk (noodles). Number nine is considered lucky in the Tibetan tradition; the soup should therefore consist at least of nine ingredients. On the day when Guthuk is prepared, one should also eat nine portions of it. But from the custom I am familiar with here in the Tibetan exile, families or friends only gather in the evening to enjoy the soup together.
Guthuk and the surprise
I guess you’ve been wondering what the big surprise is, right?
The only difference between a traditional Tibetan soup with homemade noodles called Tenthuk and the New Year Eve’s soup Guthuk is tiny balls made from flour that carry a short message inside. They are like Chinese fortune cookies but way less elaborate. As the custom goes, certain words are written on tiny pieces of paper that are then rolled into balls and cooked in the soup.
Everyone then gets one of these balls in their portion and at the end of the meal, they share which word they were given. The funny part is that all these small messages reveal one’s assets or character flaws. They are usually for fun and are not taken very seriously although if someone finds a character flaw in his ball that is true, the person should try to do something about it in the oncoming year.
Here are some of those traditional words with their meaning:
If you’re planning on having a fun evening with your friends, you can turn this into a game and come up with thousands of ideas of what the small balls could hide. Try riddles, jokes, or even trivia! I’m sure you can get very creative here…
Homemade noodles à la Tibet
Noodles are the second easiest thing to make – all you need to do is mix all-purpose flour with water and some salt. Then you knead the dough and from smaller parts roll stripes with your hands which you then flatten with your fingers. The last step is to pinch ½ inch pieces off the dough straight to the boiling soup.
One more interesting thing about the Tibetans and their eating habits: as per their custom, they never eat everything what they have on the plate. It is because they don’t want to look wolfish. “If you eat everything hastily, people might thing that you don’t have anything at home to eat,” a Tibetan friend from Kham (Sichuan) told me once. “No one wants to be known as the greedy one.”
Also, there’s a good piece of news especially for women – the Tibetans see gain in weight as a sign of health and that you can afford enough good food. They will tell you directly that you’ve gotten fat which is rather insulting for us, the Westerners, but believe me when I say that their intention is pure. 🙂
If you want to make a non-veg Guthuk, cook meat in 2 litres of water for about 30 minutes. Then start preparing the veggies according to the recipe. When the veggies get a bit tender, add the meat stock instead of fresh water. Follow the steps from the recipe to finish making the soup.
What are your ideas for the surprise? What would you write on the pieces of paper?