I’ve lived in large capital cities all my life: 25 years in Singapore, my beloved southeast Asian nation; five years in Buenos Aires, also known as “the Paris of South America”; and now, Washington DC, where we’ve been settled in for the past two months.
There’s no denying it – I’m a city girl at heart, and while I love weekend escapades to the countryside every once in a while, the allure of big cities just keeps drawing me back. There’s something incredibly comforting about a city’s buzz and bright lights that twinkle in the night; the hum of never-ending traffic and the people walking around, fast paced and goal-oriented.
I adore the fact that there is so much a city has to offer – a colorful and metropolitan culture; activities of every kind; and ethnic food that suits every possible palate.
I’ve spent the last five years out of Singapore, where most of my friends and family are. There’s great enjoyment to be found exploring a different corner of the globe, learning to be part of a new environment and experiencing life in a way so unlike that at home.
You could say that I’ve gotten accustomed to life in places where there are foreigners everywhere I turn; where locals intermingle with tourists and foreign residents; where the strains of distinct cultures intersect like the strings of an intricate web.
I love seeing how being different can be the norm, and how it is accepted and sometimes even expected of us not to be simply normal. It’s refreshing to be in places where there isn’t only one single type of yardstick used to measure your worth, and knowing that diversity is celebrated and embraced.
Yet while I certainly enjoy a life less ordinary – traveling around and making my home away from home in different parts of the world – there are moments when being among such a wide variety of different cultures can get temporarily overwhelming, and in those rare moments I crave familiarity and comfort.
Thankfully, food can bring the much needed comfort that may not otherwise be so easily attained. When I start feeling homesick for Asia, I seek the simple tastes and smells that I’d grown up with.
Some days, when I’m feeling up to it, I do something a little more elaborate like Pad Thai with prawns and fresh lime.
Other days, when I’m feeling lazy and want comfort food quick and fast, I make something like this – a plate full of brown rice noodles with gently wilted bok choy, sautéed mushrooms and golden pan-fried tofu, tossed with a generous glug of soy sauce and a shake of salt.
The enormous pleasure derived from a dish so simple but so comforting is quite indescribable. All I know is that the tastes and fragrances (as familiar to me as the lines on the palms of my hands) bring me momentarily back to Asia, back where my loved ones are.
- 1 large bowl of cooked brown rice noodles
- 2 cups of bok choy leaves
- 2 cups of sliced button mushrooms
- 1 cup of cubed tofu
- 3 tablespoons of gluten-free soy sauce
- ½ cup of chopped spring onions
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add a little oil and place sliced mushrooms in a single layer
- Let mushrooms cook and only flip them when the bottom is golden brown, then let the other side cook until brown as well. Set aside.
- In the same skillet, add a bit more oil and pan-fry tofu cubes, flipping over when the bottom side is brown, and letting the other side brown as well. Set aside.
- Salute the bok choy leaves for 1 minute or two until just softened
- Add in brown rice noodles, drizzle gluten-free soy sauce and toss well
- Add in cooked mushrooms and tofu and mix well
- Sprinkle with chopped spring onions before serving.