Musical pairing – Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas
I have one very important piece of advice to share with you before we even start talking about food. When you are shopping for your ingredients, if you happen to be with a friend or a husband in the grocery store while you are talking about this delightful and simple soup you are about to make, you must remember one thing. DO NOT say out loud that you are making “Kung Fu Panda Soup”. It causes misunderstandings that may upset people. It makes you sound like an eater of endangered species. Though the moments of confusion it will inspire would seem hilarious in a Marx Bros. movie, in real life, it may give some poor elderly conservationist a heart palpitation. And nobody needs a heart palpitation when they’re shopping for their produce. Learn from me, for I share the fruit from my tree of “I learned this the hard way,” knowledge freely. You’re welcome.
Now, about this soup. If you’ve seen either of the “Kung Fu Panda” movies, then you already know what I am referring to. Po the panda’s precious adopted father, Mr. Ping the goose, runs a noodle shop. In this quaint little shop, he chops veggies for steaming pots of broth with freshly made noodles. Our craving for noodles was so intense after seeing the sequel this May that we immediately went over to the restaurant “Noodles” when the film was over.
But that wasn’t enough. We needed that very soup. I imagined it would be lightly salty with a fresh flavor and I couldn’t get it out of my head. All summer I’ve been dwelling on it. “Kung Fu Panda” and it’s sequel are truly beautiful films that are large in scale, have hauntingly elegant scores, endearing characters, jaw-dropping animation and they look beautiful in Real 3D. And yet, it’s that blasted soup that’s been bugging me.
Turns out, as is usually the case with these Movie Bites, that I am not alone in my craving for this cartoon food. Many parents have found that even their kids want to try the stuff. Kids that hate their vegetables suddenly want them chopped into soup just like Mr. Ping makes. So finding a recipe was easy and the recipe is simple . . . after going a few rounds with some tougher recipes, I was more than ready for simple.
I sauteed the vegetables in the soup pot first; little discs of carrots, finely chopped onion, thin sliced celery and some chunks of bok choy. A sidebar about bok choy: I’m just saying, don’t go Googling for any skeletons in a vegetable’s closet if you don’t want to find them. Did you know that too much bok choy can actually be slightly poisonous? I know. Neither did I. Bok choy, to me, has always been a jovial choice. The clown of the vegetable world. Haha, bok choy, I said to myself while shopping. Bok choy, bok choy…it’s just really fun to say. Like one of those words that ceases to sound real after you say it a few dozen times. It sounds more like the clucking of a chicken than a soup ingredient. But bok choy only wants you to think it’s silly and innocent. It can cause severe stomach irritations and some people have allergies to it the way some people can’t go near chlorine. I guess that’s true for every food. But bok choy just seemed so unassuming . . . you’re welcome.
After I sauteed the veggies, I added some vegetable broth and brought it to a boil. Then I added the noodles and cooked the whole pot for five minutes, making sure the noodles were done but still a little tender. The resulting soup was . . . drumroll . . . ladies and gentlemen, my first real successful Movie Bites! In this case, to me success means recreating a food from a movie so that it tastes how you hoped it would. And it had precisely the light refreshing flavor of a summer soup.
Maybe it’s just because I don’t have much experience cooking. Maybe it’s because I was trained to be disappointed by the taste of movie food after trying lobster as a kid. After watching “Splash” I thought it would taste crunchy and salty and instead found it to be rubbery and bland. (Then again, I didn’t crunch right through the shell like Daryl Hannah’s mermaid Madison, which probably makes a heck of a difference.) But this is the first real Movie Bites that hit the spot. I mean truly hit the spot. After this round of cooking, I can sort of take my hands off my eyes a little bit and stop waiting for the kitchen explosion I’ve been expecting every time I try to recreate a recipe.
Kung Fu Panda’s Noodle Soup captures the expected flavor of Mr. Ping’s beautiful CGI soup perfectly. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s pretty close to being dressed up ramen noodles noodles, maybe it’s the simplicity of flavors…whatever it is, I think you’ll enjoy it.
Then again, maybe the bok choy just wants me to let my guard down.
SMITH BITES NOTE: Audrey and I have worked out a deal where she finds a recipe, makes it and writes the post . . . if I recreate the recipe and take the photographs . . . and . . . sometimes I try to confuse the heck out of you by using what I have in my pantry . . . so don’t get confused with my ingredient list and method with what’s been written above. And don’t dismiss this recipe because of the long list of ingredients – the last three are optional garnishes and the rest comes together quickly; just make sure you have everything prepped before you start adding to the pot as it comes together almost like stir-fry. By the time you add the broth and the noodles, you’re just 3 minutes away from a delicious bowl of noodle soup!
KUNG FU PANDA NOODLE SOUP
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- ½ cup yellow onion – finely chopped
- ½ cup celery (I like using the center part with the leaves) – finely chopped
- ½ cup carrots sliced in 1/2-inch rounds
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
- 1 whole baby bok choy, chopped into ½-inch pieces (approx ½ cup total)
- ½ cup sliced mushrooms (Shitakes would be terrific)
- 4 cups faux chicken broth (I use ‘Better Than Bouillon’ – you can use their vegetable broth if you prefer)
- 1 cup water
- 2 rounds of Udon noodles (it comes 3 rounds in a pkg so you’ll have one round left over; Soba would work too)
- Soy sauce taste
- Dash of sesame oil
- Cilantro for garnish
- Green onion for garnish
- In large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat
- Add onion, celery, carrots; stir and sauté for approximately 1 minute
- Add garlic and ginger; give it a stir and add Bok Choy, mushrooms, broth and water
- Bring to boil then add Udon noodles, give it a good stir and cook for 3 minutes
- Remove from heat, serve in bowls topped with soy sauce, sesame oil, cilantro and/or green onion
Audrey Brown is a freelance journalist and voice over artist. She recently completed her M.A. in Creative Writing and was once mentioned in the Huffington Post by documentary director Mark Edlitz for her feminist thoughts on Princess Leia’s gold bikini. Audrey lives in Florida with her husband Jake and it is entirely possible that you will see the two of them running wild through Walt Disney World on any given day. If you wave at them, just remember that the Vulcan hand signal is just their way of waving back and not an obscene gesture. You can find Audrey at her blog Born For Geekdom.