City Food – Julia Child Makes Pho in BK Dutt Colony
The great chef’s life in Delhi.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Meet the Julia Child of BK Dutt Colony, a quiet middle-class neighbourhood in central Delhi, next-door to the posh Jor Bagh.
In her 30s, writer Victoria Burrows lives in a two-room apartment with her leopard-striped, semi-civilised former street cat, Perdita. She has piles of food books in her drawing room and pots of lemon grass, basil and mint plants on her terrace, which is partially claimed by the thick leafy branches of an Indian lilac.
Ms Burrows loves to eat – she recently discovered a new place in the nearby Meharchand Market that serves “oily and delicious” Chicken Changezi. But she won’t tell The Delhi Walla its name until she herself writes about it in VictoriaQueenofCuisine.com, her blog-site on her “Asian food adventures on my Royal Enfield motorcycle.”
Ms Burrows, who grew up in South Africa, moved to Delhi in 2011. Earlier, she was in Hong Kong where she edited Good Eating, the food magazine of South China Morning Post. “There is so much more to Indian cuisine than can fit in a newspaper,” says Ms Burrows. “That’s why I began my blog.” Here is the recipe of Ms Burrows’s ‘Pho’.
Pho, pronounced ‘fuh’, is a one-bowl Vietnamese meal that I discovered during a trip to Ho Chi Minh City. When I returned home to Hong Kong, I hunted the dish out in small, family-run Vietnamese diners. It was only in Delhi that I began to make it myself — you don’t find good, authentic pho here. Pho is traditionally made with beef, but in India I make it with chicken. In Hong Kong, I would eat pho twice or even three times a week, often by myself. I would go to these simple little restaurants and focus only on eating and thinking, not having to talk. While most Asian food is meant to be shared, there is something solitary about eating pho. I would feel independent. I would feel in charge of my own destiny.
Pho (for six to eight)
1 whole chicken (about 1.5kg)
2 liters chicken stock
5 cm cinnamon stick
4 spring onions
3 cm fresh ginger, pounded
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
400 g dried rice noodles (the flat ones are more traditional)
200 g fresh bean sprouts
handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
half a yellow onion, thinly sliced crosswise (optional)
2 spring onions cut into 2 1/2 cm pieces
small handful fresh Thai basil leaves
2 limes, cut into quarters
few red and green finger chillies, sliced
Place the chicken and the stock in a large pot with the cinnamon, spring onions, fresh ginger, salt, and sugar and bring to the boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for an hour. Add the fish sauce and set aside.
Meanwhile, to cook the noodles, bring a large pot of water to a boil, put in the noodles and cook until soft. Remove from the heat, drain, rinse in cold water and set aside.
Half an hour before serving, remove the chicken from the stock and when it is cool enough to handle, shred the meat by hand and set aside.
To serve, place a handful of beansprouts in a large soup bowl. Add a serving of noodles and ladle in soup. Top with shredded chicken, fresh coriander, onion slices, spring onions and basil. Sprinkle fresh lime juice and desired amount of chilli.
Repeat process for each serving.
The making of pho