Mushroom and Bok Choy Rice Soup with Chicken or Tofu (Pao Fan)

Rice is nice. In all forms. I particularly like various types of soupy/creamy rice dishes in Spring and Fall. They’re so cozy and warming, but not on the same level as long-cooked stews and braises. This particular recipe for mushroom and bok choy rice soup is a stalwart friend, the perfect companion to cozy nights in, with relaxed music and soft lighting.

This is sort of a funny recipe, in my mind. It’s based off one that a former editor shared, and she was very firm that her recipe was “proper” pao fan, and I never questioned it. I assumed it was The Standard. Whenever I deviated (and I always deviated…), it always felt like I was messing with something that had firm parameters. Nope! Based on other sources like The Woks of Life, pao fan is a soupy rice dish well-loved for its clean-out-the-fridge meal-making magic! It can have all sorts of toppings and mix-ins, but this recipe is for pao fan the way I like it.

Rice Soup!

Pretty much everything I’ve seen about pao fan wants to make sure it’s very clear that pao fan is not porridge. So I will join the chorus: Pao fan is cooked rice with broth. The grains don’t break down and get creamy like a congee/jook. (I always enjoy reading Made with Lau’s recipe breakdowns– pop over here to read about congee!) This recipe is brothy, not creamy, but it does start with uncooked rice, which is a deviation from most pao fan recipes. What can I say? Sometimes I want a soupy rice for dinner, but I ate all my leftover rice for lunch!

Baby Bok Choy and Mushrooms

I don’t always have both of these on hand, but I really love them in this recipe. The mild flavor of the baby bok choy is just so cozy, and I love the tender-crisp stems contrasting with the tender rice.

I also love mushrooms, and this is such a nice base to savor them. Getting them nice and brown first gives them extra deep savoriness and a satisfyingly toothsome texture. Shiitakes are my default because they are easy to find, but it’s a great recipe for whatever type you have hanging around your fridge.

Protein: Chicken or Tofu

It’s optional, but I do like including a bit of savory protein in my mushroom and bok choy soupy rice. It’s also a good medium for a bit of extra flavor, specifically oyster sauce and other umami-rich ingredients. In fact, I often use leftovers of my go-to, super basic umami bomb tofu. When I don’t have leftovers on hand, I’ll use the same flavorings and cook it fresh, as indicated in the recipe! The flavors work perfectly on chicken, too, which is a nice treat if you eat meat.

Final Flourishes

This makes such a cozy bowlful as-is that you might not bother with garnishes. I almost always add a ton of sliced scallions and toasted sesame. I’ll also sometimes drizzle on a bit of soy sauce or chili oil.

Helpful Tips:

“Can I make this vegan?”

Absolutely! Swap out the oyster sauce for a vegan version, or try a Taiwanese soy paste. Go with the tofu instead of the chicken, and use your favorite veg or mushroom stock in place of the chicken stock.

“Can I make this with pre-cooked chicken/tofu?”

Definitely. If your protein is relatively plainly seasoned, toss it with the sauce as indicated in step 1. If it’s already seasoned, just add it to the pan in step 3 and cook until reheated. Proceed with the recipe as written.

“What’s a good substitute for baby bok choy?”

I usually keep my subs to other types of cabbage, because I like the flavor. The easiest swap, in my opinion, is 3 or 4 ounces of savoy cabbage, sliced or chopped. It’s more delicate than standard green cabbage, so it will soften the same way that the baby bok choy softens. Napa cabbage is another good option, with a tender-crisp texture more similar to the stems of the baby bok choy.

Mushroom and Bok Choy Rice Soup with Chicken or Tofu (Pao Fan)

This brothy, homey dish is my version of pao fan, a Chinese soupy rice dish normally made with leftover rice and bits and bobs from the fridge. While I sometimes swap ingredients in and out based on the contents of my fridge, this recipe is my stalwart, gold standard. It's the one I daydream about when slogging home from some errand on a cold and rainy day. Even though pre-cooked rice is traditional, my version starts with uncooked rice. I often find myself craving it when there's no more leftover rice hanging around! It's deeply savory and full of cozy textures, perfect for curling up and listening to a Spring rainstorm. This recipe can easily be doubled to serve 4.
YIELD2 Servings
TOTAL TIME 35 mins


  • 4 ounces boneless skinless chicken thighs OR firm tofu (About 1 small thigh or ¼ of a tofu package)
  • 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
  • ½ teaspoon soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon chicken or veggie bouillon paste
  • Kosher salt and black or white pepper
  • cups water
  • cups homemade or store-bought broth (Chicken, mushroom, or vegetable)
  • cup jasmine or other long grain rice
  • Neutral oil, such as peanut oil
  • 2 ounces fresh mushrooms, torn or sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 to 3 ounces baby bok choy, sliced into ½-inch pieces

To Serve

  • 1 to 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Chili oil or chili crisp


  • Step 1
    Cut the chicken or tofu into ½-inch -ish pieces. Tofu should be easy, but if you're having a hard time with the chicken (or if your knife is dull), pop the chicken in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to firm it up. In a small bowl, mix together the oyster sauce, soy sauce, bouillon paste, and a pinch of ground pepper. Mix in the chicken or tofu and set aside.
  • Step 2
    In a medium to large saucepan, combine the water, broth, rice, and a generous pinch of salt. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer until the rice is tender, about 8 minutes (longer if you're at high altitude).
  • Step 3
    While the rice cooks, in a medium or large nonstick skillet, heat a glug of oil over medium-high until just barely smoking. Add the mushrooms in an even layer and cook without disturbing until golden brown on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes.
    Stir in a pinch of salt and continue cooking until the mushrooms are tender, another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken or tofu and cook, stirring often, until the chicken is no longer pink or the tofu is well-browned all over, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the ginger and cook for another 30 seconds, then remove from heat. Stir in the bok choy and set aside until the rice is done.
  • Step 4
    When the rice is ready, add the bok choy mixture to the pot and give it a quick stir. Cover, turn off the heat, and let stand until the bok choy stems are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • To Serve
    Serve sprinkled with the scallions, sesame seeds, and extra black or white pepper. Drizzle with sesame oil. For extra umami, especially if using ho-hum store-bought broth, dribble on a bit of soy sauce, soy paste, or a splash of maggi seasoning. For heat, try a drizzle of chili oil, chili crisp, or even your favorite tangy hot sauce.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. The Porch Life

    5 stars
    As always, this looks delicious! Please keep the recipes coming!!

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