In The Kitchen With Lisa and Zarah

It's not everyday that you get invited over to make Pho. That may be partly because authentic Pho is not made at home as often anymore. It's a day-long process—one that involves chopping, toasting, grilling, simmering, with a healthy dose of patience. It could be turned into a day of laughter, sharing and bonding. And that's exactly what we did.

Back in August, when my friend Zarah offered to teach us the Art of Making Pho, my lovely neighbor Lisa and I signed up instantly. We were already hooked onto the Vietnamese shrimp rolls with dipping sauce, both of which Zarah makes effortlessly. Born in the Philippines, Zarah married into a traditional Vietnamese family, where her mother-in-law trained her to cook homestyle Vietnamese food. Zarah is a woman of many talents, apart from being very hard-working. She used to own and manage an ethnic Asian grocery store, working long hours to sustain her family. Today she is a successful real estate agent in Boulder County. As charming as she is funny, there's never a dull moment when Zarah is around!

Lisa is an angel. She's also my neighbor. If I had to describe Lisa in a few words, I would simply say this: Lisa embraces. She casts a supportive net and welcomes you into her clan. I am particularly in awe of her parenting skills. Her three children, each very different from the other, stand testimony to the sheer breadth of her skills.

Lisa and Zarah, two awesome women

Friday Feature: Faces of India

What: Dried Fruit and Nut Stores, big and small, narrow and wide
Where: Old Delhi / Delhi Sector 6 / Chandni Chowk

fancy gift packs

Of uncertain origins

I had a dilemma on my hands recently: a half gallon of 2% lactose-free organic milk lay languishing in my refrigerator. It's more expensive than regular milk and I did not want to see it go waste. I tried lacing my tea with it, only to have mugfuls of tea remain unfinished and untouched. Given how I felt about it, there was no question of getting help from the other two members of my family.

Yogurt seemed like the only solution but I wasn't sure that I could make yogurt from lactose-free milk. I reasoned that since the lactose in this milk has already been broken down into its constituent glucose and galactose—something that the lactobacilli does, in the yogurt-making process—it seemed like it would be a worth a try, at the very least. Then I found this post, Homemade Yogurt with Lactose-free Milk, which confirmed my train of thought.

But, what if the yogurt was as powdery as the milk? I needed something to mask that distasteful quality about lactose-free milk. Then I remembered how delighted I was last December when Anita had yanked me into a teeny little shop in Chandni Chowk that sold Bengali mithai. There was barely enough room for all of us to stand. Little earthenware kulhads were handed to us, filled with creamy thick sweetened yogurt. Yes! I had finally tasted mishti doi.

is that look telling or what?

Friday Feature: Faces of India

What: Street Food
Where: Delhi 6 (just like the movie!)

Crowded, sweaty, cacophonous, in-your-face; it was sensory overload personified.

These pictures were shot as we walked fast in Old Delhi or Delhi Sector 6. The smells wafting from these street carts were incredibly enticing but since we had wills of steel and stomachs made of jello, the best I could do was take pictures as Anita pushed us peering tourists along.

Daulat ki chaat (milk foam)

So Much Deep-fried Fun!

We've had two big snowstorms, exactly a week apart; the second bringing us 9.5 inches of snow. It was not as wet and heavy as the first but since my trees are still stubbornly holding on to their leaves, it does get a tad bit distressing. But, luckily, since my tree care guy had pruned all the wayward branches, my trees did not suffer any further damage.

Icy Maple
Icy maple

The fun class at the Denver Botanic Gardens seemed like it was such a long time ago!