The first time I walked into Fox Farm Whole Food in Joplin, I was terrified.

Unfamiliar smells, unfamiliar labels. I had no idea how the aisles were organized. I was friendly with a few types of Asian cuisines and dined on them regularly in great spots such as Thai Time, Han the Sushi Man or at Marion Days in Carthage for Vietnamese.

But I wanted to cook at home and needed a few ingredients I couldn’t find at the usual grocery chains. Now, I can’t stay away from those umami-packed jars and cans. And the produce is unique in this area too: daikon radish, Thai basil. Huge knobs of ginger, fresh chives. Shallots that are hard to find or super expensive in other local stores.

Asian-inspired food is quickly eclipsing my love for Mexican food. I could live on both of those flavor profiles easily, with some hummus and tzatziki thrown in. I encourage you to grab some sauces (hoisin, sweet chile, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sriracha), stock up on a variety of noodles (udon, soba, ramen, rice vermicelli, mung bean) and stack cans of coconut milk to add some healthy creaminess to rice, curries and even desserts.

There are classic Asian dishes, of course, but at home, I love to mix and match. There’s no wrong way to do it. Add protein or not. Use your favorite vegetables, not just the broccoli.

But be sure to top the starchy carbs (noodles and rice) with fresh cilantro and/or Thai basil, with a good squeeze of lime. If you like it spicy, don’t forget the chile oil, sliced Thai chilis or crushed red pepper. Experiment, eat well and have fun.

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Miso and greens soup

8 cups vegetable or chicken broth (2 standard boxes)

2 sheets nori (dried seaweed), torn into small squares (optional)

8 tablespoons white miso paste (fermented soy bean paste)

2 cups baby spinach or chopped sturdy greens

1 cup chopped green onion (white and green parts)

6 ounces firm tofu, cubed

Place broth in a medium sauce pan and bring to a low simmer. Add nori and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes.

In the meantime, put miso into a small bowl, add a little hot water and whisk until smooth. This will ensure it doesn’t clump. Set aside.

Add greens, green onion and tofu to the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add miso mixture and stir to combine. Taste and add more miso or a pinch of sea salt if desired. Serve warm. Best when fresh.

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Coconut sticky rice with bacon and scallions

8 slices cooked and crumbled bacon

3 scallions (green onions) chopped, green and white parts

1 cup sticky rice

1/2 can unsweetened coconut milk

2/3 cup water

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Rinse rice in several changes of water until no longer cloudy.

Add coconut milk water and salt to a small pot, add rice and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to lowest setting and allow to steam for 20 minutes. Remove cover, fluff rice with a fork and serve immediately in a bowl topped with bacon and scallions.

Note: Top with mango instead of bacon and scallions to make a traditional Thai dessert.

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Peanut udon noodles

32 ounces udon noodles

For peanut sauce:

1 cup creamy peanut butter

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons sriracha

Warm water as needed to reach desired consistency

For toppings:

One chopped scallion (green onion)

Half small cucumber, chopped

Handful torn cilantro

Handful torn Thai basil

1/4 cup chopped unsalted peanuts

Fresh lime wedges

Sprinkle of pomegranate arils

Prepare noodles according to package instructions. Best noodles found in frozen section of Fox Farm or other Asian market. Mix and whisk all ingredients in large bowl to make peanut sauce. Prepare toppings. Pour cooled noodles into large bowl with peanut sauce. Using tongs, carefully mix noodles into sauce. Pour saucy noodles into serving dish, add toppings and serve.

Pairs well with a sparkling rose, Riesling or plum wine.

Josie Mai is a culinary artist and in-home chef. See her on Facebook and Instagram as Josie Mai Personal Chef or at josiemai.com.

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