Baby Bok Choy (Part II)
Last month, Baby Bok Choy was the featured salad ingredient in Frank Fimano’s Crispy Shanghai Salad; this month, Jody Okamoto’s recipe makes use of the visual impact of a whole miniature head of this versatile Asian vegetable by presenting cross-cut halves in his Spicy Miso Ramen. The delicately spicy leaves and crunchy sweet stalk are not cooked, though the miso broth melds with the fresh flavors of the bok choy, adding another texture to the dish. Plus, the plating is just eye-catching!
Jody Okamoto, a Melissa’s National Sales Team member, shares a dish that celebrates his cultural heritage and some fond childhood memories. His dish was so good that it sent this writer on a miso and tofu noodle binge for several days after preparing the recipe for this blog! I used Jody’s tasty submission as a springboard to create several versions of the dish with a few ingredient tweaks. Deliciously inspiring! The ultimate comfort food experience is slurping up the noodles with chopsticks from a rich and warming bowl of miso.
“My parents were first-generation Japanese Americans,” Jody explained. “Growing up, my grandparents tried to instill Japanese values and traditions, which included our culture’s unique cuisine. One item was miso and all its health benefits. Miso is extremely versatile and many dishes have a miso or miso paste base, including dishes like ramen and udon, as well as the pickling and fermenting of fresh vegetables called nuka. Just the aroma of miso brings back a flood of good memories.”
Jody’s dish is basically a rich miso soup – supported by the Baby Bok Choy and Shirataki noodles. Prepare all the ingredients before starting this recipe, including cooking the noodles separately. One of the best things about making a soup, no matter its cultural origins, is the wonderful aroma that grows as the soup develops—first, enveloping the kitchen and, depending on the ingredients, seeping into the rest of the house! Jody’s recipe comes with a very pleasing ginger-garlic-lemon-miso essence that wafts through the air. Interestingly, not all the components of this recipe come together in the soup pot; part of the prep IS in the plating, so follow Jody’s order of construction. Namely, the Baby Bok Choy halves, pepper slices and noodles are placed in a large serving bowl first; then, the hot miso broth is poured over each serving and left to steep before serving so the flavors will meld.
Jody Okamoto has been a member of Melissa’s National Sales Team for fourteen years, working remotely from his Las Vegas home office. After twenty-seven years in several managerial positions with a large retailer servicing the Vegas area, Jody said he made the professional decision to transition to the wholesale side of the produce industry with Melissa’s, a company that supplies retailers. Those years of retail experience have served him and the company well ever since.
“My daily role is working with many of our retail teams across the country as well as those in our Los Angeles headquarter by collaborating and strategizing Melissa’s products and programs,” described Jody. “Working with our teams daily is essential to staying ahead of the marketplace. In this industry, field conditions and seasonal harvests change the supply situation daily. We all get so much information that crosses our desks each hour, and sometimes staying ahead can be challenging. Communication is critical to demonstrating our value to our customers with critical knowledge that supports their businesses. In the competitive arena of fresh produce, personal relationships have always been the key to success when price and quality are equal.”
When Jody is not on a conference call with one of our teams or visiting a retail customer locally, his life is full with family – both in number and spirit. Jody says that his family spends a lot of time together in the out of doors hiking, snowboarding, jet skiing, and boating as a group. And it’s quite a group! Married to wife Kimber for 27 years, the couple shares two stepsons along with their respective wives. Jody also has two grown daughters; one is married, so count another son-in-law. And then there are his seven grandkids and two canine pointers. Family gatherings are always centered on food, as is customary in Japanese culture. However, I hope there are plenty of table leaves to accommodate: Kimber, Brent, Brad, Amanda, Stephanie, Braden, Blake, Beckett, Wells, Nova, Oden, Ridge, Shea, Brianne and Aric. Plus, Sooner and Jackson, who no doubt are served before everyone in their own kibble bowls!
When asked for a famous person he would like to see added to this crowded table; Jody did not hesitate.
"If I could invite any person to a meal, I would like to invite Chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Of course, I am fascinated by the unique style of his Japanese-Peruvian cuisine, but more importantly, his dogged perseverance to achieve his culinary goals through all the struggles he encountered early in his career. He worked his way from dishwasher to Sushi Master to a global Michelin restauranteur. Not sure what I would prepare for such a culinary master, especially one who is known for his own miso specialty dish – so definitely NOT this recipe!"
Spicy Miso Ramen with Bok Choy
32 oz. Ramen broth
3 tablespoons Red Miso Paste
2 cups of water
1 clove garlic, chopped
1-ounce fresh ginger, thin sliced
1 stick lemongrass, sliced into 3 inches pieces
1 pkg. Melissa’s Dried Mushrooms Medley, rehydrate in warm water 15 minutes
3 Baby Bok Choy, sliced in half (1 or 2 halves per serving)
3 Melissa’s Fresh Thai Pepper, sliced thinly
2 pkg. Melissa’s Shirataki Noodles, cooked
Melissa’s Costa Azul to taste – optional garnish seasoning
Prepare all ingredients before starting this dish as it is a fast-paced process.
Bring to boil the ramen broth, then add-in the miso paste and two cups of water. Bring broth back up to boil, add in garlic, ginger and lemon grass, then simmer for 10 minutes.
Plating: In large individual soup bowls, place one or both halves of Baby Bok Choy, depending on size, and a portion of the pepper slices to taste. Next, add in the cooked noodles, then pour a serving of the broth over all, submerging about half of the Baby Bok Choy. Let steep for 5 minutes before serving with Melissa’s Costa Azul on the side.