The days are short. We are a week and a half from the longest day of the year, and still they go by in a whirl. A cry, a nurse, a snuggle, then up to tidy rooms and make beds. Breakfast—the first strawberries of the garden and homemade toast—and three days a week, out the door and off to school. Then there are columns and bills and radio shows to contend with, a shift at the farmers' market or the lunch rush at the restaurant. After work there's a walk or a swim and dinner and dishes, then packing lunches and answering mail and finally reading in bed. 

They are good days, though, and we appreciate them. There are things we'd like to do better: tend the garden, hang out the laundry in the sun. But there are also things that flow: magnificent salads and bubble tubs and pages of Pooh before bed. 

And there are soups—the saving grace of days filled with hard work and little ones. I'm not sure I ever really fully appreciated soup until Sally was born—a meal that you can start in the morning while the day is cheerful and leave on the stove for that harried hour when suppertime rolls around.

The latest is a chicken and bok choy rendition. There have been all sorts of choys at the farmers' markets recently—Joy Choy and Pak Choy and Bok Choy itself. I like it wilted, still a bit firm, but Alex and Sally say that's too bitter for their tastes. So I decided to try it stewed—cooked down with chicken broth and beans and fresh ginger and nuoc mam

I found the recipe on Epicurious. I didn't have all the ingredients, though, and I didn't read it through before I started, so I ended up doing it all wrong. I have no idea how close what I made is to the original. And I don't care, either, because it was simple and good, and a hit with everyone.


Be careful with sodium in this soup. The original recipe calls for low sodium chicken broth. I used homemade, so that wasn't an issue, but if you're using store-bought pay attention to the salt. A little goes a long way, and you add soy sauce later on. For the chicken I seared off two breasts with wings attached and picked off the meat. The pickings from a roasted whole bird would also work well. 

1 onion
1 head bok choy, washed, trimmed, and thinly sliced
a glug of olive oil
8 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons fish sauce (nuoc mam)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon Sriracha
2 cups cooked pinto beans
2 cups cooked shredded chicken meat
sea salt, if necessary

Sauté the onion and the bok choy in the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the veggies begin to wilt down and get tender, add the chicken broth and stir in the ginger, fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, Sriracha, beans, and chicken meat. Bring the soup to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for a few minutes to let the flavors come together. Taste and adjust for salt as needed. Serve hot—and don't worry if you don't serve right away. The flavors come together better the longer this soup sits, so it's fine to make it in the morning and serve it in the evening, or even the next day.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.