The Kid Stays in the Kitchen: Jessalyn’s Noodle Soup

4washing bokchoy
4abok choy
7marinated pork
11adding fish
12adding pork
13adding water
10adding bokchoy

I’m excited to present our newest edition of “The Kid Stays in the Kitchen.” Each week a student is assigned to cook a traditional dish with a friend or family member and document the experience in photos and words. This week features Jessalyn, who prepared a Taiwanese pork and fish soup with her mom.

Soup noodles or no noodles! It’s a peculiar saying, but it’s one that I’ve heard over and over since childhood. If you’re lucky enough to experience the Taiwanese culture and its sometimes weird but delicious food, you’ll find that the Taiwanese have an obsession with soup.  And no matter where you go, you’ll never find a good soup without perfectly pulled noodles far behind.

This Taiwanese noodle soup, much like the American chicken noodle soup, is an extremely easy dish to make. But for those like me, who find themselves dropped oceans away from their beloved homeland, it is also the greatest comfort food. Just the smell of searing scallions mixed with soy sauce brings me back to Taiwan during the hot and wet typhoon season.  I’d sit at the dinner table with a steaming bowl of soup, wind and rain racking against the roof.

We all know soup is comforting when we’re sick; it’s also liquid life on a cold day. So I encourage everyone to try out this short and sweet recipe! Make your own beautiful Taiwanese noodle soup! — Jessalyn

Taiwanese Noodle Soup: Recipe by Jessalyn’s mom, Wen-yu Chang

Soup Ingredients

  • ½ lb Bok Choy
  • 3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 5-10 stalks of Scallions
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 pack Chinese flat noodles (rice or flour)
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Sesame Oil
  • Salt
  • MSG (optional)
  • White pepper

Pork Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp Corn starch
  • 3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1-Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 egg


Pre-preparation of Pork (or any type of desired meat or fish)
Use a plastic bag and put about ¼ to ½ lb of meat into it. Add the 3 tbsp of cornstarch and soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of salt to the bag. Crack one egg and whisk till frothy, then add to bag as well. Allow pork to marinate from anywhere to two hours to overnight.

Wash bok choy and scallions with cold water and rinse off twice. Cut each of the scallion stalks into thirds. Heat the pot until steaming hot and add vegetable oil until it creates a layer on the bottom of the pot. Sear scallions till they have a slightly browned, then add 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and 8 cups of water. Let the water come to boil then add noodles and allow to boil for 7-8 minutes. After the noodles are semi-boiled (after the 7-8 minutes) add the strips of pork throughout the soup and noodles. When the water has come to another boil, add the bok choy and cover the lid of the pot. Allow the soup to boil for 6-10 minutes, or until the boy choy has softened. Use salt, MSG, and white pepper as seasoning. Adjust amounts as desired. Lastly, sprinkle some sesame oil into the soup.

Don’t Yuck This Yum!


Michael Pollan shared his favorite “Dietary Dos and Don’ts” in the October 2009 New York Times Food issue. One in particular — shared by Rachael Narins — stood out: “Don’t yuck someone’s yum,” and I’ve adopted it as the motto for my Gastronomy class and the EatNYC club.

It has come in handy when there is a funky-footy cheese or super stinky tofu on our tasting plates. The kids’ eyes widen and their noses wrinkle, but I remind them that someone somewhere prizes the food in front of them. “What’s the worst that can happen?” I rationalize. “You won’t like it.  Eat a piece of bread, drink a little water and the taste will be gone.  But if you do like it, it will be a source of pleasure for the rest of your lives. That’s a risk I’m willing to take.” (This is where students invariably counter with the blowfish argument: “The worst thing that can happen, Ms. Boylan, is that we die. Explain that to our mothers.” Point taken. And hence we will never taste blowfish; there’s just too much paperwork involved.)

Last week I had to plug the reliable saying again when Jessalyn, a Taiwanese student, brought in the salted duck eggs and thousand year eggs (pidan) she made with her family for the class to taste. She first explained the history and fermentation process and playfully called the eggs, “Thing One and Thing Two.” The class warmed up.

And then came the tasting.  Jessalyn cut the salted eggs into tiny slivers and because of the predictable white and yellow colors, the students gobbled them up.  “I’m in love,” Kleant declared.

Jessalyn proceeded to carefully peel the thousand year egg, and the class collectively shuddered at the shiny black albumen peeking through. She sliced it in half. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with pidan, the fermentation process — aided by a pasty mixture of black tea, salt, wood ash and quicklime — turns the “white” of the egg a glossy black and the yolk a creamy sulphur-ish green.

“Yuuuuuuck,” went the chorus.  Unfazed, Jessalyn explained that pidan is typically served in congee (rice porridge) or with soft tofu, greens and oyster sauce.  “Yuuuuuck,” they reiterated.  “And this is what you are going to taste today,” she beamed.

I intervened to remind them that it was too late to declare an allergy to pidan, and they would all be obliged to try it.  “And remember, guys,” I started.  “Don’t yuck someone’s yum,” they finished with a collective eye roll.

Each student grabbed a plate and sidled up to the pidan. Jessalyn gingerly placed a slice of the egg on each cube of silken tofu.  A squirt of oyster sauce later sent each kid back to his seat to contemplate the next move. They eyeballed it from different angles like kittens calculating an attack on a ball of yarn.  Giggles and dares ensued.

And then they ate it.

The reactions ranged from surprise to confusion to displeasure. Some really liked it and went back for seconds. At least two had to force it down.  But all of them were proud to have sampled something so foreign to them.  One student concluded, “I never would have tried this because of its appearance. I didn’t love it, but it wasn’t that bad, either. Who knows what I’ll try next?”

My point exactly.

The Kid Stays in the Kitchen: Leila’s Kitri


Welcome back to our student cooking series, “The Kid Stays in the Kitchen.” Each week a student is assigned to cook a traditional dish with a friend or family member and document the experience in photos and words. This week features Leila, who may look familiar to you because she is the twin sister of Tammi, our first contributor to the series.  Leila and her mom, Ellen, chose to make Kitri, an Iraqi rice and lentil dish. You’ll get to meet the whole family in this post as each played a role in its creation…and consumption. My favorite photo by far is the one of Ellen, not only for her priceless expression, but also for the fantastic wall of Tammi-Leila pics on the refrigerator behind her.  Thanks for letting us peek inside your home! — Ms. Boylan

Kitri is the Iraqi take on rice and beans. It combines Basmati rice, lentils, onions and tomato sauce together to make a delectable dish that is full of flavor and character. Yes, Kitri even has character! It is traditionally made for dinner on Thursdays because it is a meat free alternative before the heavy Shabbat meals that begin on Friday night and commence with Saturday dinner. It is also customary to have Kitri as the dinner before the Tisha B’Av fast that takes place in the summer. I had never acquired a taste for the lentil and rice dish until a year or two ago. I have vivid memories of going to a family dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house, and my older cousins chowing down on it.  The red rice looked so appealing, but I just couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the texture of the lentils. Another cousin of mine was so impressed with the Kitri that her future husband once made her, that when they got married, my Dad claimed it was because of the Kitri!

As I have grown however, my tastes have changed and I now love eating it. I prefer it with plain yogurt because it adds a nice contrasting coolness to the warmth and texture of the lentils, but my parents enjoy it with a fried egg as well. It is usually served with Zabzi, “greens” such as scallions, radishes and lettuce. Because of my family heritage, my mother’s Kitri emulates an Iraqi version, whereas the Persian variety contains raisins, dates, saffron and green lentils rather than red. It is a treat when my mother makes the dish and because it is so easy, it will be my fallback in college! — Leila H.
Recipe for Kitri by Leila’s mom, Ellen
  • 2 Cups Basmati Rice
  • 1 Cup Red Lentils
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 Teaspoons Chopped Garlic
  • 1 ½ Cans Tomato Sauce (15 oz)
  • Cayenne Pepper

In separate bowls, soak the rice and lentils in water and salt. Rinse the rice and lentils until the water in the bowls is clear. Chop up the onion and put it in the pot on the stove. Oil the added onions with vegetable oil. Turn the stove on high and stir the onions for a few minutes. Then add the chopped garlic and continue stirring. Add the tomato sauce, then fill the empty can with water and add that to the pot as well. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Put the lid on the pot and bring to a boil. Pour the water from the bowls of rice and lentils into the sink. Pour the lentils into the pot followed by the rice. Boil uncovered until the liquid evaporates (approximately ten minuets). Then lower the heat to medium so the mixture does not burn once the liquid has evaporated. Pour some olive oil into the mix. Place two paper towels on the top of the pot and put the lid on. Be sure to cut off the corners of the paper towels so the paper doesn’t burn. Leave on high until steamed and test by licking your finger and tapping the outside of the pot (don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt). If moisture sizzles, then that’s a good sign. Lower to medium heat for approximately ten minutes and then to a simmer for 45-60 minutes. Serve with plain yogurt, fried eggs and greens.

Buds and Skittles: A Guide to Tasting

When I asked my students last week to close their eyes, pinch their noses shut and hold out their hands, their cute little clammy paws all shot out ready for whatever I was about to give them. I placed one Skittle in each — I didn’t want to betray their trust immediately —  and asked them to chew it, noses still cinched. They let out signs of approval, noting its sweetness and chewy texture. “Ok, release the noses,” I instructed and still chewing, they gasped with teenager wonder: “Whoa, that’s so cool! I can really taste the purple now.”  They all compared the colors and flavors in their mouths, their conclusions starting my lesson on taste. Our sense of smell is essential to taste. Perhaps a fact we assume or take for granted, it’s pretty cool to see the kids discover this for the first time. Guided by the research from Cornell’s Taste Science Laboratory, I took them through some exercises, like the Skittle sampling, to prove to them how important our sense of smell really is and how complex the process of tasting is, too. While our tongues register temperature and perceive tastes like salty, sweet, bitter, sour, umami and fat (some argue that our tongues also detect others like metallic, too), it works in a complex partnership with the nose and brain to trigger memories, identify the specific foods we eat, and establish emotional reactions to that food (good, bad, toxic!).We concluded the lesson with an activity which has become something of an initiation in the Gastronomy class: the staining of the tongues. Apparently the fungiform papillae on the tongue do not absorb blue food coloring. So they pop with pink against the blue and the kids can get a sense of the size and number of their papillae. They proudly march around declaring their taste sensitivity, even though we may or may not be qualified to do so. But it sure is fun and makes for some of the silliest pictures of the year.

If you’d like to see more pictures of the kids from the taste lesson, click here for the portfolio.

The Kid Stays in the Kitchen: Gilberto’s Chiles en Nogada


This is the second week of our cooking series, The Kid Stays in the Kitchen.”  Each week a student is assigned to cook a traditional dish with a friend or family member and document the experience in photos and words.  This week features Gilberto, who decided to cook Chiles en Nogada, a traditional Mexican dish with his mom.

Cooking with my mother isn’t something that I do all that often. In my family we have this mindset that one person – either my mom or my dad — cooks for the other members. And although food is very much a uniting force in my family and in Mexican culture as a whole, cooking is a solitary activity in our home.  Nonetheless, my mom and I both found it very different and enjoyable to have someone in the kitchen to chop and chat with.

My family had debated for a while what we were going to cook for dinner since we all had to eat it that night. After much deliberation between my parents and me, we finally decided on Chiles en Nogada. It is a take on another Mexican dish called Chiles Rellenos, which means Stuffed Peppers in Spanish. My mom has made Chiles Rellenos many times but she never actually tried Chiles en Nogada, so she had to call my grandmother, who still lives in Mexico, to get the recipe. My mom told me that as a child, she and her brothers would always have this when there was a big celebration in her neighborhood in Mexico City. The dish is made traditionally in the month of September around the time of Independence Day. The colors of the dish represent each of the three main colors of the Mexican flag: the green poblano chiles are stuffed with ground meat, chopped fruit and spices and dressed with a creamy walnut sauce and topped with red pomegranate seeds.   There’s a real patriotic connection to the dish, according to my grandmother, and it means a lot to the people of Mexico.  — Gilberto A.

Recipe for Chiles en Nogada by Gilberto’s grandmother, Guillermina


  • 5 green bell peppers (or Poblano if you can find them)

For the stuffing:

  • 1 Spoonful of Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Diced Onion
  • 2 diced garlic cloves
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 2 peeled tomatoes without seeds
  • 1 diced plantain
  • 1 diced apple (of your choice)
  • 1 diced peach
  • 1 diced pear
  • 7 to 8 olives
  • ¼ cup of almonds
  • ¼ cup of raisins
  • 1 whole clove
  • ¼ spoon of salt

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • ½ bar of cream cheese
  • 2 cups of walnuts
  • ½ cup of whole milk
  • ¼ spoonful of cinnamon
  • ½ cup of pomegranate seeds



Toast each pepper individually over an open flame. Put them inside a plastic back to make them sweat for 30 minutes. Take them out of the bag and peel off the skin.


Mix in the diced pears, peaches, apples, and plantain into one bowl. Preheat pot on low heat for 15 minutes. Add ground beef and onions into pot. Keep on low heat and cook for 20 minutes.  Stir in fruit mixture as well as the olives, tomatoes, cloves, and garlic cloves.  Turn the heat off and put it into another container.  Mix in salt and almonds.


Add all ingredients except the pomegranate seeds into a blender.  Blend on low speed for 30 seconds.


Cut a small slit in each pepper on one side and with a small spoon, gently fill the pepper with the meat stuffing.  Pour the walnut sauce on top and garnish with pomegranate seeds.  Enjoy!