Updated: Apr 6, 2020
Sometimes you know exactly what you want to cook and you get the right ingredients for that meal. Other times, the contents of your refrigerator dictate what your next meal will be.
That’s been happening to me quite a bit lately.
Today, I opened up my refrigerator door and browsed up and down the shelves wondering what would be our next dinner, and I took notice of something on the bottom shelf that I had nearly forgotten I had purchased a week earlier – a head of Bok Choy.
Immediately, my thoughts were transported to Asia, where I first tasted Bok Choy; and Malaysia in particular, where I would often eat the leafy-green in soups.
About seven years ago, I was living in Singapore and was out late one night at a Hawker Centre – or food court. I was hungry and, because it was late, there was only one restaurant opened at the food court. And they served only soup.
At this particular facility, patrons would choose their vegetables and meat, and a soup would be created to their taste (for those in the West, this premise is much like a sandwich shop, but with soup).
I looked down at the array of vegetables on display – the beautiful bright colors and fragrances – and saw a lot of items with which I was very unfamiliar. Uncomfortably unfamiliar.
So I did what I had learned to do in my few years as a world traveler – It’s a little trick I will still do from time-to-time, when I find myself in unfamiliar surroundings – I simply ordered the same thing as the person ahead of me.
I wasn’t sure at the time, and I’m still unsure, of the names of each of the ingredients, but I can remember the soup I ordered was brightly colored with green, white, pink, yellow, purple and red contents.
And though I cannot recall everything my first soup had in it, I do remember that it was about 90 percent delicious.
It was months later that one of my dearest friends in Singapore, Anne, taught me what each of the vegetables and others items on display were. She showed me how to successfully order a great soup. And my soup orders grew tastier.
For several years I traveled throughout Southeast Asia. During a visit to Malaysia, I was visiting a friend who decided to cook a meal for me.
I was slightly dumbfounded to discover that the soup she made was extremely similar in flavors I remembered from my first soup experience in Singapore. It had Bean Sprouts, Spinach, Bok Choy, boiled eggs, sausage, noodles, fish balls, tofu, and a lot of other items that escape my memory at the moment.
And for some reason, in my friend’s soup, the flavor that stood out to me the most was the Bok Choy.
Even though I first tried it in Singapore, Bok Choy is a flavor I relate to Malaysia.
So when I opened my refrigerator today and found the Bok Choy, I got an overwhelming feeling of love and goodness that reminded me of the Malaysian people that I so often encountered during my time there.
Malaysia is an extremely welcoming country that I fell in love with almost right away. The people are friendly, the food is delightful, and the Malay language has pronunciations that are very similar to Spanish, my native tongue.
Albeit to say, I ended up spending lots of time, gaining lots of friends, and eating lots of food, in Malaysia. Actually, the friends I have there have become like family to me over the years.
As my eyes shifted from the Bok Choy, I spotted carrots, ginger root, shredded chicken – and I knew that the fridge’s ingredients and my flashing memories had just decided for me what was for dinner.
Asia-inspired chicken noodle soup
3 cups water
2 Tbsp finely chopped Fresh Ginger Root
2 Stalks chopped Green Onion
4 Leaves chopped (about ½ inch) Bok Choy
2 Cloves Garlic (whole)
1 tsp Tahini (optional)
½ chicken breast
1 Carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Optional: Soy sauce and/or Sriracha (add in individual bowl). I personally like Sriracha, but not soy sauce. I thought soy sauce was overpowering to the dish.
Boil chicken in 3 cups of water (or until chicken is covered)
Remove chicken to cool after it is cooked through, and then shred chicken.
In remaining water (which is now chicken stock), add garlic, green onion, ginger and tahini and bring to boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and allow to cook for 10 minutes.
In separate pot, boil egg noodles in water
Uncover soup after 10 minutes has passed and add salt and pepper.
Taste. (Add more salt and pepper if needed)
Remove soup from heat and carefully strain to remove ginger, garlic and onion. This step will reduce your soup to a stock. If you like chunks of ginger, garlic and green onion, feel free to skip the straining step.
After straining, add carrots and Bok Choy.
Transfer cooked egg noodles from its pot to the pot of soup and allow to simmer 5 minutes.
You want to cook it, but not too long. If it’s cooked too long, the Bok Choy will lose its vibrant green color, flavor and crisp.
Taste. If salt and pepper is needed, add.
Ladle soup into bowl and add shredded chicken.
Add Sriracha to bowl of soup for added deliciousness.
Note: if you desire to use tofu, sauté the tofu until golden brown and add to broth after straining and cook 5 minutes, before adding Bok Choy and simmer 5 more minutes.