Laphing Fever among Foodies in Thimphu
Laphing noodle, a popular street food dish originating from Tibet, has made its way across Asia, particularly having a prominent impact on Sikkimese and Nepalese cuisine. In the past year, Laphing Fever has taken Thimphu by storm, and the trendiest restaurants have jumped onto the craze.
Written by Hannah Park, Photos by Namgay DJ & PemC
What makes Laphing so widespread and addictive is its distinct, spicy flavor. Laphing is a cold mung bean noodle that is traditionally made from a potato or flour base. These noodles are cooked overnight, shaped, then lathered in a sauce made from dried chilies and vinegar. The dish is then garnished with red chili, cilantro, green onion, coriander, garlic, and cloves, to create a deep, rich, and complex flavor. This phenomenon first originated in the Sichuan region (perhaps explaining the dish’s trademark spicy kick), and then soon travelled across the Tibetan plateau. Laphing first became a notable part of Nepalese cuisine when Tibetan emigrants first made Nepal their home. Now, this dish has spread across most of Asia, including Bhutan. In most restaurants that serve laphing in Thimphu, you can get laping noodles dry or soaked in a chili soy sauce broth, making for the two most popular varieties of laphing: dry and wet laphing. These noodles are usually served cold, and have become a popular summer dish (although in all honesty, this dish is addictive enough to eat year round). With the intense, deep flavor of this dish, it is no wonder that laphing fever has overtaken Bhutan.
Coffee Studio, a recently opened café in Babesa, Thimphu, has mastered the art of laphing. The café serves two varieties of laphing—dry or wet. The dry laphing noodles come rolled with a red chili paste acting as a filling, while the wet laphing comes served in a spicy chili soup seasoned with cilantro and garlic. I had heard that laphing noodles contained an intense, spicy kick, however, I was not prepared to digest my first bite of laphing. The dry laphing tends to be more spicy and intense in flavor than the wet laphing. The wet laphing are less hot, however, the broth adds another element of spicy flavor from the seasoning it has been soaking in. The noodles are indeed soft in texture, and the light, spicy flavor of the dish will make you wanting to order more.
The next Laphing spot I tried is a hidden gem in Thimphu. Simple and modest in its surrounding, the place is a tiny cottage hidden behind the Centenary Market. Unlike Coffee Studio, the spiciness is much more toned down, while not losing that signature, tangy and savory flavor. A unique aspect of the place’s laphing noodles is its infusion of bite-sized nutella (an awesome meat substitute) within the rolls of its dry laphing and infused with the broth of its wet laphing. The combination of delectable laphing noodles soaked in a spicy broth and spongy pieces of rolled laphing with a delicious nutella filling, create a distinctive and irresistible flavor. The noodles here tend to be thicker, allowing for these noodles to soak the deep, rich flavor of the laphing sauce. If you are looking for a filling as well as a cheap place to grab laphing, this is the place to try!
Laphing House, as the name implies, is a definite spot to try laphing if you are looking for the quintessential laphing experience. Laphing House is able to blend a perfect amount of spiciness and rich, garlic-infused flavor into its own broth without overpowering the dish. Like Momo Corner, the noodles tend to be on the thicker side, which is perfect for absorbing the variety of flavors from its signature sauce. The dry laphing comes wrapped with pieces of wheat flour chunks, which adds another dimension of texture and flavor to the dish, while the wet laphing is served with these slices of wheat flour infused into the broth.
If you are ever in Thimphu, these three places are the go-to spots to try this latest food trend that has taken Thimphu (and Bhutan) by storm!
Go to www.zhimmey.com for more on food and restaurants in Bhutan.