There comes a time, in every household, across every land and in all cultures, when there is a sickie. A sickie is a person with a big swollen nose and a headache who is cranky and cannot sleep. This person generally isn’t hungry (adding to the crankiness) but food should be eaten to keep up one’s strength. The most obvious characteristic of a sickie is a general sadness, mopiness and all over feeling sorry for oneself. This person will walk from bedroom to couch, draped in a blanket, box of tissues under one arm and cup of tea in hand. It can be kind of cute, don’t you think? 

The question is, what to feed this poor soul? In our house, it doesn’t matter the season, be it the center of summer, a fall weekend or at the time when spring is just hinting at showing up. The answer, of course, is soup. Maybe it’s the silky, tender vegetables or the slurpy noodles or the simplicity of a bowl that’s flavored with just a few items, but noodle soup with ginger and turmeric is sick-person soup. 

Important here is the small amount of chiles, in the form of sambal oelek. Sambal is easy to find in the Asian section of the grocery, has a nice, medium amount of heat (used moderately, it will add warmth, but not fire.) Paired with turmeric, which has a bitter flavor, and the bite of garlic and ginger, the base of the soup has enough spice and flavor to wake up taste buds that are worn down by a cold. 

What you put in this soup can vary and there isn’t any wrong answer. My kids liked frozen corn, and you could use rice noodles in place of wheat. Even thin spaghetti will do if that’s what you have. Add squares of tofu in place of the chicken, or leave the protein out altogether. The bean sprouts add a nice contrast-y crunch and the extra hot sauce is not to be skipped. All of it is enveloped and wrapped up in the warm, yellow and flavorful broth. 

Here’s the truth: the sickie in my house this week has been me. It’s been change-of-season allergies, lack of sleep, headaches and general crankiness. These are all reasons to wrap up in a blanket and go from the couch to bed with a belly full of warm noodle soup. 

Ginger Turmeric Noodle Soup

Serves 4bowl of soup with a light broth, bean sprouts, broccoli, bok choy, noodles, and chili paste


    • 2” piece ginger
    • 6 garlic cloves
    • Canola oil
    • 1 heaping tablespoon turmeric
    • 2 teaspoons sambal oelek (or more, to taste)
    • Good pinch sea salt
    • 6 cups unsalted chicken stock
    • 2 chicken breasts, sliced into pieces
    • 2 baby bok choy, sliced in half lengthwise
    • 2 cups broccoli florets
    • 2 cups fresh bean sprouts
    • 4 ounces chinese wheat egg noodles

For Garnish

    • Limes
    • Extra hot sauce
    • Sesame seeds


    1. Grate the ginger and garlic on the large holes of a box grater.
    2. In a large, heavy pot, warm a few tablespoons of oil over low heat.
    3. Add the ginger, garlic, turmeric and sambal and stir, cooking until it’s all warm and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Season with salt. 
    4. Add the chicken broth and bring to a gentle simmer, scraping up anything that is stuck on the bottom.
    5. Add the bok choy, broccoli and chicken and cook for about 7 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are bright green.
    6. Taste the broth and season with a bit more salt, if you like. 
    7. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the package directions (usually about 3 minutes.) Drain and set aside. 

To serve: heap a pile of noodles in each bowl and top with broth, bok choy, broccoli and chicken. Add a handful of bean sprouts and let everyone top their own with lime, hot sauce and sesame seeds.  

Caroline Barret in kitchenCaroline Barrett writes about food and families. She teaches cooking classes at Different Drummer’s Kitchen in Albany. You can find her at



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