Nothing brings violence to my hearts core more than Tofu. Crippled sole inserts from 30 year old shoes laid out in rubbery fields to soak blandness up from dead rivers, only to be "kissed by the flame" in a void attempt of imparting any more flavour than nothingness possesses. Anyone who could make me eat Tofu and actually prefer it over literally any other ingredient on earth, deserves a Night-hood.
This bowl of Vegan Ramen at Zest did indeed include the torment of Tofu, but had enough other options to disguise the floating particles of polystyrene. The broth was a deep shiitake flavour rounded off with some specks of chilli, seeds and fresh herbs. Noodle-wise, this wasn't a miracle, favouring the overcooked standard packet noodles you get all over India. Some cleverly selected vegetables and a surprising amount of depth from the broth left me only missing a nice piece of chashu or a perfectly boiled egg.
Kudos to the chefs for obtaining so much umami from meatless, boneless stock.
Not many words are needed to describe the Thukpa at Chinatown when Kamal is in a good mood and on fire in the kitchen. Insane flavours, spicy, tons of garlic, amazing broth, tender chicken, herbs, vegetables, everything you need in a bowl. It cures most things in life.
(Agonda Beach Road)
The stifling heat of Kerala was left behind by the night trains gentle rocking. Morning came, after a night full of disturbances from screaming kids and the snoring geriatric 30 centimetres from my bunk. Three buses, a rickshaw and a short stroll later I checked into my new abode on Agonda Beach.
First step: google Tibetan restaurants for Thukpa.
Found one 20 meters away down the road and decided to wait until the next day to try it out for breakfast. Woke, showered, headed down, owner was a smiling Tibetan man who asked "You like spicy or non spicy?". I answered "spicy" of course, not knowing what I had gotten myself in to. Usually thukpa is not hot, so a spicy thukpa sounded like a relatively painless bowl of goodness.
The meal came, I dove in. The broth was a little "cornflour-thick" but had some decent flavour and then the kick came. Blew my head off. I ate through the noodles and vegetables, choking on hidden chilis strewn all throughout the bowl like mines waiting to explode. I managed to eat 4/5ths of it before having to throw in the towel. My eyes were tearing up, my nose running, my throat and tongue numb and my stomach tense at the expectation of what was coming it's way.
Apart from the intense shock of heat, the soup was a decent offering. Had better, had worse. Perhaps it was just what the doctor ordered to kill this lingering cold....
(I/942, KB Jacob Rd, Fort Nagar, Fort Kochi)
Knowing my propensity for pleasure found at the bottom of a bowl of noodles, it didn't take long to find another one. I landed late last night in Kochi after an uneventful flight from Malaysia. Managed to find the guesthouse and hit the hay around 3am. Woken numerous times by screaming kids, then by adults screaming at the screaming kids, I gave up sleep around midday and started searching for lunch.
Just down the lane was a highly rated Tibetan place which was perfect for a brunch-type deal. It was located after the turn in a very narrow alleyway, and another Indian restaurant had sprung a genius plan of sabotaging the Tibetan place by having a huge banner saying MOMOS on their wall so that the unsuspecting tourist would think this was the spot. In fact the real place was out of view around the corner. I almost got duped but had seen photos of the interior online so I knew something was fishy.
I sat upstairs, away from the German tour groups peering eyes. Chicken Thukpa, Lime Soda plain no sugar no salt.
The broth was rich and delicious, the noodles were the packet-type affair, the chicken was tender and the vegetables added a nice crunch. Delicious start to my 2 months in India.
(Chauk Bazaar, Darjeeling, West Bengal 734101, India)
The Chinese spread their Ramen to Japan, just as the Tibetans spread the wonderful version "Thukpa" across to Nepal and Northern India. The dish comprises noodles, broth, vegetables, meat (if wanted) and coriander, generally. It's the perfect meal to combat the chilly winds in the Himalayas and a great hangover cure.
Kunga is a small unassuming restaurant up near the bazaar in Darjeeling. However, their limited space is almost always packed with hungry locals and inquisitive tourists. The inexpensive food is top notch and the service is always friendly. This Thukpa will set you up for the day of wandering around town or climbing all the steep alleyways.
(Coutinho Vaddo, Vagator, Goa 403509, India)
Up there with the top 10 Thukpa places I have eaten, this bowl is sublime. Lots of garlic, good noodles, pieces of tender chicken, tons of coriander, spicy Schezwan chilli sauce, and some julienne vegetables. It's worth going out of your way to eat this. You'll be back for more.