Beyond Curry: Anda Bhurji (Spicy Scrambled Eggs)

VIEW SLIDESHOW: Beyond Curry: Anda Bhurji (Spicy Scrambled Eggs)


In Indian cuisine, scrambled eggs take on a very different avatar. The dish isn’t the familiar yellow, mild, homogenized egg preparation you find on breakfast tables around the world. Scrambled eggs, or the Indian Anda Bhurji is just the opposite. It’s a riotous mix of colors, spice, and flavors laden with butter and character.

Bhurji (spicy scrambled eggs) is made at home, but it’s also a very popular street food. Some hawkers have fine-tuned its preparation to a dramatic event. Curious passers-by are instantly lured and loyal patrons watch mesmerized, as their orders come to life.

A wide flat frying pan (tava), almost a foot and a half in diameter sizzles away over dancing flames as a dollop of butter is slapped onto it. With deft fingers, an onion is chopped whole, first one way, then across in the cooks’ bare hands???no chopping board???then into the pan. No fear. The same treatment for the tomatoes and the spicy green chillies.

This feat is interrupted by the sight of eggs being cracked mid-air into a bowl and whisked to perfection, before they sizzle and melt into the spices and butter on the smoldering pan.
Then the eggs are worked with a spoon that looks very similar to a flat-edged spade; the egg mixture is violently tossed, pummeled and broken down into tinier bits of scrambled egg rubble. The metal spoon clanging against the cast iron pan gives this incredible sight a fitting, high-energy beat.

It’s usually two eggs to a single serving and some die-hard eggoholics add a sunny side-up over the bhurji. Once the egg is scrapped off the pan and into the plate, pav(local loaf bread) is cut open, another sliver of butter is thrown onto the pan and the bread is vigorously rubbed into it to absorb any of the spicy eggy flavors that were left behind.
Bhurji is one of those dishes that is so widely loved, it has found its way to breakfast, lunch and dinner as a side, and sometimes as an in-between snack.

And because the spice combinations used vary from region to region and home to home, every plateful of bhurji is a new discovery.

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Anda Bhurji (Spicy Scrambled Eggs) ??

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from Serious Eats…

The Food Lab: How to Make Tonkotsu Ramen Broth at Home

It’s time for another round of The Food Lab. Got a suggestion for an upcoming topic? Email Kenji here, and he’ll do his best to answer your queries in a future post. Become a fan of The Food Lab on Facebook or follow it on Twitter for play-by-plays on future kitchen tests and recipe experiments.


[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Like most of you guys out there, the ramen of my youth was served in two discrete serving sizes: by the Cup, or by the Oodle. The noodles were soft and squiggly, the broth was thin and salty, the corn was de-hydrated then re-hydrated, and the scallions were, well, at least they were green. Despite all these shortcomings, the stuff was still a tasty meal, and I don’t mean give-in-because-there’s-nothing-better tasty in the “I guess I’ll go watch Star Wars Episode I in the theaters yet again,” kind of way,* but must-eat-tasty in the “Holy Cow! Empire Strikes Back is playing on the big screen for one showing only, I gotta get me some of that!” kind of way.

*Damn you, George Lucas, for continually finding new ways to make me poorer and you richer thirteen bucks at a time. You’re almost as good as Paul McCartney at this game!

Imagine my elation, then, several years later when I found out that Cup Noodles are not the be-all end-all to ramen. I can’t remember the first place I tried real-deal freshly-made ramen (most likely it was at a nondescript Ramen-ya in New York with my grandmother), but I definitely remember the effect it had on me. Tasting it was like suddenly discovering the wood-fired glory of Motorino’s pizza after living off of frozen Elio’s for my whole life. It wasn’t just a game-changer???it outright altered the basic rules of physics.

Since then, I’ve been a man obsessed, eating ramen at nearly every ramen-ya in New York, and throughout different regions of Japan. Heck, I even gave a talk about ramen at the Japan Society once with the founders of the Ramen Museum in Yokohama. My love for ramen has driven me all around the world and more than once has tested the strength of my marriage.*

*Don’t worry, our love always manages to bounce back like a good alkaline noodle

Just as with pizza, the regional variation between bowls of ramen???the broth, the flavoring, the toppings, and the noodle style???are staggering, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the King of Slurpdom, the Pope of Noodle Town, the broth cut from a different cloth, the bowl with the most soul is tonkotsu ramen.

Made with an intensely porky, opaque pale broth with a sticky-lipped intensity and the rich, buttery texture of light cream, there’s no smell more warming on a cold day than a big hot bowl of tonkotsu ramen set before you. The best sport tiny nubbins of fat swimming around on their surface, a slick of mayu (black garlic oil) or chile-sesame paste, a handful of thin-sliced green onions, a soft-yolked soy-sauce tinged egg, and a few slices of meltingly tender cha siu pork belly. It’s the ultimate meal-in-a-bowl and what any Japanese business man or woman???and a good deal of Americans these days???thinks of the moment you mention comfort food.

As a New York resident, I’ve got it easy when it comes to finding good ramen (check out our guide to the best here). But cities change, people move, and I’ve got my less fortunate friends and family to think of.

The challenge? Figure out how to make world-class tonkotsu ramen right in my own kitchen. It took over 40 pounds of bones and over 200 hours of collective simmering time to do it, but I cracked the code. Luckily, the wife was out of the country for a week.



Bones To Pick

Having been trained in classical Western kitchens, my first instinct when making a broth is to keep it as clean as possible. Perfect clarity is the goal. As Michael Ruhlman puts it, you want to be able to read the date on a penny at the bottom of a pot of good French stock. To achieve this, you boil your bones and aromatics as gently as possible???a sub-simmer, with the surface barely quivering???meticulously straining the entire time to remove any impurities that might cloud your soup.


When making a Western-style stock, heating bones in water is a means of removing water-soluble proteins from the interior and exterior of the bones and dissolving them into solution, adding flavor to the water. The heating and simmering process also catalyzes a few other reactions, mainly the conversion of collagen???the protein that comprises most of the connective tissue???into gelatin, the familiar protein that thickens and adds richness to broth (and Jell-O).

With tonkotsu broth, on the other hand, you go one step further. In this case, bones are cooked at a rolling boil for a long, long, long, long period of time. Not only does all the same dissolving and gelatin creation take place, but you also end up breaking down other matter???fat, marrow, calcium, various other minerals and proteins???into tiny tiny pieces which get suspended in the liquid, turning it opaque.

So how long does this process take? I’ve read reports ranging anywhere from an hour and a half in a pressure cooker up to 60 hours at a low boil on a stove-top.

Putting on the Pressure

Being a man who is lazy by nature, I decided to try the quick, hour-and-a-half pressure cooker method first, using a combination of split pork trotters (they boast plenty of flavor, lots of collagen, and a good amount of fat and marrow???I found that getting them cut into cross-wise disks rather than split lengthwise makes for better extraction) and a chicken carcass to mellow out the flavor.


What emerged from the pressure cooker sure was tasty, but it was by no means a good tonkotsu ramen broth. Rich with gelatin and flavor, to be sure, but it was nearly transparent in color. The problem is that in the high-pressure environment of a pressure cooker, temperatures get higher, allowing for fast extraction and conversion of collagen to gelatin, but the high pressure also prevents the rolling boil necessary for getting those extracted solids to emulsify into the broth.

A Matter of Time

Next, I cooked a batch the traditional way???on the stovetop in a regular Dutch oven, pulling out ladlefuls of broth at thirty minute intervals and chilling them in the fridge (to get a better gauge
of the broth’s progress).

I was curious as to how the matter that causes the broth to turn milky white actually gets suspended in the water. We all know that fat tends to coalesce and float to the top of a broth while particulate matter can sink or float depending on its density, right? Well, my theory is that in the case of tonkotsu broth, the gelatin created as the broth cooks acts as a kind of net, trapping all that good stuff and causing the broth to become both opaque, and more flavorful. If this is true, we should begin to see the broth turning opaque at around the same time as enough collagen converts to gelatin to significantly thicken it.

Here’s what I saw:


  • After 1 hour: the broth is pale and watery. Very little flavor has developed and there is no gelatin formation to speak of.


  • After 2 hours: there is significantly more flavor development, though still only minimal gelatin formation. Straight from the fridge the broth has a tiny bit of body. Let it warm up at room temp for a minute or two, and it’s completely liquid. No opaque milkiness yet, implying that very few minerals or fats are emulsified into the liquid.


  • After 4 hours: a great deal of the collagen from the pig’s trotters has converted to gelatin, creating a broth that remains as a loose gel even at room temperature. Right on cue, the broth also starts to look opaque. At this point, you can’t see anything beyond the top half-inch of liquid. The aroma is rich and deep, but the broth is also quite dark, which is a little troublesome???pale off-white is what we’re after.


  • After 6 hours Our broth is solid enough when chilled that you can pick it up in soft-ball sized chunks without it breaking or slipping through your fingers. It’s also extremely cloudy at this point???you have trouble seeing anything hiding just below the surface.


  • After 12 hours we see a broth thickened to pretty much its maximum. The pig’s trotters have completely disintegrated leaving little but bone and a few scraps of soft skin here and there. The rest has melted completely into the broth. While there is change between 6 and 12 hours, it’s not nearly as significant as in the earlier stages. Continuing to cook the broth past this point (I went up to 48 hours before calling it a day) afforded no noticeable advantages.

So far, I think the theory of gelatin helping to suspend cloudy particulate matter is a sound one, but I had a much bigger problem on my hands:


The broth is brown.

In Western cuisine, if you want a brown broth, you have to roast your bones first. Roasting creates brown colors, and those colors get transferred to your broth. I didn’t roast my bones, so why was my broth turning brown? Obviously there’s something else

Blood Bath

Watching a little more closely as the bones heat up reveals the answer:


In the early stages, while the water is still too cold to actually start cooking the bones, but while there’s still enough to allow the bones to start giving up their goods, you’ll notice that the water turns a pale pink from the pigments coming out of them (a combination of hemoglobin???the pigment that colors blood???and myoglobin???the analogous pigment for muscle tissue). Continue to cook, and the color appears to go away, but in reality, it’s merely lurking in the shadows, waiting for time, concentration, and oxygen to do their work, transforming them into deep brown pigments.

The only way to get rid of them? Wash those bones, and wash’em well.

The best way to do this is to cover the bones with cold water and bring the whole pot to a boil, allowing the blood vessels and muscle fibers to tighten up and begin squeazing out their unwanted contents (this stuff, by the way, is what you are skimming away when making a French stock). As soon as the water comes to a boil, dump the entire contents into the sink.


Isn’t that fun? If you’re the kind of person who always enjoy squeezing blemishes or popping blisters (I know several folks like this, including both family members and spouses!), the next step will be right up your alley.


Your mission, should you choose to accept it: remove every last bit of brown-tinted anything from all the bones. This means blood, bits of organ, dark marrow, anything that’s not beige or white needs to be removed. Cold running water and a chopstick help. It’s a sort of time-consuming process, but it’s a good way to zen out for fifteen minutes and contemplate the meaning life, death, and noodles.

This is what stock made from un-cleaned bones looks like after about 20 minutes on the stovetop:


Ugly, right?

Once I restarted my stock with completely cleaned bones, I got none of that. Or at least, very little of it. Most of the gunk and scum manifested itself within the first 20 minutes as a few rogue bits of flotsam which were easily skimmed off, as well as a bit of debris that clung to the sides of the Dutch oven???easy to wipe off with a sponge or moist paper towel.


Was it worth it in the end?

Here’s the broth I ended up with after 10 hours of cooking:


And here are the two broths side-by-side.


Remember, these two broths are completely identical save for the fact that the broth on the right was made from blanched-then-washed bones, while the broth on the left was made from completely fresh bones. Both were packed with flavor, both were rich, thick, opaque, and gelatinous, but only the washed bones delivered the clean color I was looking for.

Back To Fat

At this point, I could have thrown in the side-towel and called it a day. After all, many
ramen-ya get along just fine with tonkotsu broth, flavorings, noodles, and toppings. But sorry, not good enough for me.

See, the best of the best, cream of the crop ramen-ya will add a final little flourish to push their bowls of soup over into top-ramen territory: finely chopped, super-tender pork fat.


To get it is simply a matter of adding a hunk or pork fatback (the fresh, not salted kind) directly to your pot as the bones cook. After the first four hours or so, you end up with fat that is almost liquid in texture but still manages to barely hold its shape, like the finest panna cotta.


I chopped this fat up into tiny bits then whisked some into the soup just before serving with a vigorous hand to break up the bits even further.


The fat is there, to be sure???you can see the little bits floating around on top???but it’s so tender that you don’t feel it on your tongue. Instead, you simply get an unparalleled feeling of rich meatiness. If you could convert the world’s juiciest, fattiest pork chop into slurpable, liquid form, that’s what you get with each bite of the fat-laced broth.

Amping Up Umami

With the broth and fat out of the way, I turned my attention towards fine-tuning the aromatics. Up to now, I’d been using a simple combination of raw onions, garlic, and ginger, but there was something missing. The sweet-pungent combination that alliums provide always goes well with pork, so I decided to add a couple leeks as well as some scallion whites (I’d save the greens for garnish) to my broth.

What about charring? I knew that both the Maillard reaction and caramelization???the respective browning reactions that occur when proteins or sugars are heated???can add complexity and create new flavor compounds that can boost the umami-factor of a dish (that’s the Japanese word for savory), so I decided to cook down my onions, garlic, and ginger before adding them to the broth (I left the leeks and scallions raw to maintain a bit of mild raw onion flavor). I realized that in this case, the browner the better???cooking the onions, garlic, and ginger until nearly black was the way to go.


Scanning around the fridge, my normal go-to umami bombs???anchovies and marmite???seemed out of place in this context, but a container of mushroom trimmings I had saved was an ideal flavor booster (you can use whole mushrooms if you wish).


Japanese ramen soup is made with two distinct parts???the broth, and the flavoring. The former can be anything from a light seafood-based dashi broth, a rich chicken broth, or a thick, creamy tonkotsu broth like we’ve made here. The latter is most commonly sea salt, soy sauce, or miso, though any number of additional seasonings???sesame paste, chili oil, or muyu???can be added to enhance or complement the flavor of the broth. In this case, I went with salt, a splash of good aged soy sauce, and a little drizzle of sesame-chili oil.


After a dozen-odd hours of boiling and waiting, there’s something cathartic about pouring a few hot ladles of broth over a steaming bowl of noodles. You feel a connection to this little bowl like no other. It’s come a long way with you from its early, clumsy little steps to its current, fully fleshed-out form, and you’ve grown right a long with it. It’s almost a shame you have to eat it, and I can’t help but feel a bit like Homer eating Mr. Pinchy when I dig in.

Served with plenty of scallions, bouncy noodles, a perfectly soft-boiled marinated egg, and a few slices of sweet, melt-in-you-mouth-tender pork belly cha siu, you couldn’t ask for a more satisfying meal to eat???or to make, for that matter.

Wait, what’s that you say? You don’t have the recipe for bouncy ramen noodles, bitter-sweet mayu, or meltingly tender cha siu pork?

Well, we’ve got to leave a few tricks up our sleeve for next week, right?

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Rich and Creamy Tonkotsu Ramen Broth From Scratch ??

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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from Serious Eats…

Dinner Tonight: Original Cheese Enchiladas with Chili Gravy


[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

If you’re going to make Tex-Mex cheese enchiladas, you might as well go all the way. And what better source to lead you to the cheesy promised land than Robb Walsh’s The Tex-Mex Cookbook? The real story here is the chili gravy, which is made from scratch. After making a light brown roux, heaps of chili powder and other seasonings are added, along with chicken stock. It’s then cooked down until it’s thick and nearly black.

After that just fry the tortillas???preferably in lard???for a just a few seconds, and then roll them up with handful of cheddar cheese and chopped onion. Once placed on an oven proof plate, the chili gravy is poured over and more cheese sprinkled on top. Then it’s baked in a hot oven for 10 minutes, until the sauce is literally bubbling on the plate. That’s it. Just be careful; that plate will be mad hot.

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Original Cheese Enchiladas with Chili Gravy ??

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from Serious Eats…

24 Tips for Having a Baby Without Going Broke

Happy baby

As most new parents can attest, having a baby isn’t cheap. There is new furniture to buy and important decisions to make on diapering, nursing, and more. It also seems that as soon as you get pregnant, you get bombarded with advice and marketing on what baby gadget to buy. Although having a baby will likely never be free, there are some ways to pare down your expenses. After all, people have been having babies for thousands of years without most of the fancy baby gear that is available to us now. (See also:??Can You Afford to Have a Baby?)

1. Baby Showers

You???ll probably get lots of needed items at a baby shower hosted by a friend or a relative. Register at a baby store so you can get the things you need. If you get extra clothes or repeat gifts, return them for a merchandise credit that you can spend on necessities (Babies ???R??? Us, for example, will take returns for store credit even if you don???t have a receipt). Have more than one shower if you can, and don???t feel guilty about it! People are happy to get together to celebrate your little one and help you out with a few gifts. If you have a lot of out-of-town friends, be sure your registry offers online ordering and reasonable shipping prices (an Amazon baby registry might be a good idea).

2. Loyalty and Rewards Programs

Sign up for Amazon Mom (you may have to be on the waiting list for a while) to save up to 30% on Subscribe and Save items such as diapers and wipes. Amazon Mom also gives you free Amazon Prime, which offers free two-day shipping. Become a rewards member at chain stores like Babies ???R??? Us, which gives you rewards points for purchases (including on purchases that others make on your baby registry) and exclusive coupons.

3. Daily Deals

I found a great high chair reduced to $20 (shipped!) from the original price of over $80 by diligently perusing Dealnews. Groupon and Living Social can sometimes turn up great family and parenting deals. Get on the email list to stay up to date (you may wish to set up a separate email just for coupons and offers). Check Amazon???s daily deals and their ???Quick Picks,??? products geared towards your personal preferences that come with a personalized coupon.

4. Breastfeed

Formula is expensive; breastfeeding is cheap. If you can, breastfeed your baby to save money. Plus, doctors now recommend breastfeeding until babies are one year old. Breast pumps can get expensive, but there are mid-range electric pumps (such as Ameda Purely Yours and Phillips AVENT Twin Breast Pump) that offer great value when compared to the top-of-the-line Medela pump, and will still cost you far less than buying formula.

5. Use Cloth Diapers

Disposable diapers are expensive ??? your baby will probably go through at least $2,500 to $3,000 worth of diapers before he or she is potty-trained. Cloth diapers will cost you much less, especially if you have a high-efficiency washing machine and line-dry your clothing. Cloth diapers have come a long way since your mother???s diapering days! No more safety pins and rubber pants! The newest cloth diapers are almost as easy to use as disposables. While you???ll spend a bit more initially (some new cloth diapers cost up to $20 a piece), you???ll save money and the environment in the long run.

6. Use Cloth Wipes

If you???re going to use cloth diapers, why not use cloth wipes too? Use soft washcloths or cut-up receiving blankets, dampen with a solution of water with a tiny bit of baby shampoo, and wipe, wipe, wipe! Cloth wipes are gentler on baby???s bottom and can be tossed in the laundry along with the cloth diapers.

7. Shop Discount Stores

I love looking for baby clothes and gear at discount stores like Ross, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls, where you can get new, good-quality baby gear for half the price. Past season brand-name baby sleepers, deeply discounted play yards, safety gates, toys, books, and other useful items can be picked up for a fraction of the price.

8. Buy Used Baby Clothing and Gear

The thought of putting your baby in another child???s poopy pants might gross you out, but in reality, used clothing stores often carry barely used baby clothing, since babies outgrow their clothes so quickly. Once Upon a Child is one used clothing store that specifically stocks baby and children???s clothing that is in good condition. You can also look for charmingly ???vintage??? clothes at thrift stores or shop Craigslist.

Although you shouldn???t buy items like car seats, strollers, and cribs secondhand because of safety issues, garage sales and thrift stores are a great source for gently used toys and nursery gear (for example, rocker-gliders are great items to get secondhand). Just be sure to check for recalls before using the item.

9. Free Meals

Register to receive free meals from friends at a site like Friends and family will love to help out (and perhaps catch a glimpse of the baby), and you???ll get a free meal, which may help to preserve your sanity in those first few weeks.

10. Stock Up on Homemade Meals

Make some lasagnas, casseroles, soups, and banana bread to stock in the freezer before you go into labor. That way, when you???re ravenous post-labor and your body is burning a zillion calories a day producing breast milk, you???ll have something to eat instead of ordering in.

11. Shop Generic or Budget Brands

Try generic or budget brands such as Target brand diapers and wipes; IKEA brand crib sheets, towels, and bibs; Kirkland brand diapers and wipes; ALL Free and Clear or Charlie???s Soap Powder instead of more expensive baby detergent; prefolded cloth diapers instead of fancy burp cloths; generic baby acetaminophen; and more.

12. Buy Multi-Use Items

You don???t really need a play yard AND a bassinet ??? most modern play yards have a bassinet insert. Look for a stroller that???s light and portable enough to take everywhere so you don???t have to buy a second stroller. A convertible car seat may cost slightly more than an infant car seat, but your child won???t outgrow it as fast. Some kitchen booster seats can be used instead of a highchair even when your child is younger. And don???t forget to get gender-neutral items if you???re planning to have another child!

13. Buy Items That Are NOT Designed for Baby

As soon as an item has ???baby??? in its name, the price goes way up. Instead of a fancy diaper disposal system, just use a lidded garbage can and sprinkle with baking soda to keep odors down. Skip the changing table and use a sturdy low dresser bought on Craigslist or IKEA that can double as storage (just be sure to avoid really old secondhand items that may have lead paint). Find cheap baskets, storage boxes, and hampers at Walmart instead of expensive ???diaper caddies??? and baby hampers.

14. Line-Dry Laundry

Hang clothes to dry to save on energy costs. Added bonus ??? the sun???s rays can bleach out poop and milk stains!

15. Beg, Borrow???

See if you can get clothing, bottles, and other necessities from friends who have had babies. Avoid,
however, using a secondhand car seat or a crib that???s more than a few years old. Safety standards for those two items are revised every year, and an older one may compromise your baby???s safety. Along the same lines, trade and request free baby clothing from websites like

16. Combine Coupons

Save manufacturer???s coupons (which often come in magazines or on diaper packaging) and combine them with store coupons for extra savings. Before going shopping, do a quick search on the Internet for a printable manufacturer???s coupon.

17. Skip the Bedding Set

Bedding sets used to be extremely popular and ran into the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars. They included matching quilts, sheets, bumpers, crib skirts, window valances, and pretty much anything you could think of. Nowadays, they???re falling out of favor. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents that crib bumpers are not safe ??? in fact, all you should have in the crib is a firm mattress and a crib sheet. Pillows and thick quilts are also not recommended for use in the crib because of the suffocation hazard they pose. Save your money and buy a few simple crib sheets instead and a few inexpensive ???sleep sacks??? or swaddling blankets.

18. Don???t Overbuy

Wipe warmers, fancy rompers, colorful plastic diaper disposal bags, and baby seats and positioners are all great extras to have, but they???re not necessary.?? Even a baby bathtub might not be necessary if you???re okay with bathing your baby in the sink. And don???t buy too many baby clothes before your baby???s born ??? your little one might grow so fast you don???t even have time to use all those cute newborn sleepers.

19. Free Babysitting

If you only need occasional babysitting, trade free babysitting with another parent or group of parents, and don???t be afraid to ask grandparents for help (they???ll jump at the chance to spend time with their grandchild). If you spend money on child care, get a receipt and look into claiming the Federal Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

20. Free Parenting Magazines

You can get free subscriptions to American Baby and BabyTalk, two parenting magazines. These magazines are entertaining and informative, and they come with valuable coupons.??

21. Free Nursery Art

The Internet is a great resource for printable art for baby???s nursery, such as these adorable illustrated alphabet cards. You can also repurpose shower decorations for baby???s room and frame some of those cute baby cards.

22. Make Your Own Baby Food

Rather than buying jarred baby food, making your own is cheaper and healthier. You can control all the ingredients and don???t have to be concerned about BPA (sometimes found in the plastic lining of baby food jars), high levels of arsenic (recently found in baby rice cereal), and preservatives. Just mash up an avocado, a banana, a steamed carrot, or another whole food, and you???re good to go. Some parents freeze baby purees so that they???re ready to be warmed up when needed.

23. Free Samples

Request free sample packages in the mail from popular brands like Pampers and Huggies. For example, signing up on the Pampers website will get you a sample package from Proctor and Gamble, Pampers??? parent company, as well as $101 worth of coupons. Again, I recommend setting up a separate email account for coupons and offers so your personal inbox doesn???t get too cluttered. Also, before you leave the hospital, ask the nurses if they have any free samples you can use, and ask your pediatrician for free samples as well.

24. Swap Toys and Books

Exchange toys and books periodically with other parents to keep your entertainment stash fresh and interesting for your child without having to buy anything. You may also want to consider looking into one of the new toy rental companies out there.

Frugal parents, do you have any advice to share on having a baby without blowing your budget?


from Wise Bread…

David Rosengarten: Vietnam’s Great Culinary Gift to the U.S… and Where to Find the Best Bowl of It!

2012-02-21-IMG_0701.jpgA steaming bowl of the most popular Vietnamese dish in the U.S., pho, at Pho Binh Trailer in Houston, Texas.

Before the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the number of Vietnamese immigrants in the U.S. — and Vietnamese restaurants! — was practically nil. By 1980, however, nearly 250,000 Vietnamese had moved to the U.S., a statistic which never stopped growing; the most recent national census in 2010 found the population of Vietnamese Americans to be closing in on 2,000,000.

So is it any wonder that the number of Vietnamese restaurants — though still dwarfed in the U.S. by the legions of Chinese restaurants, sushi bars and Thai restaurants — is growing steadily? In fact, the Vietnamese boomlet makes a great deal of sense, in these diet-conscious times — since Vietnamese cuisine is one of the lighter, fresher manifestations of Asian cooking, perfectly in key with our national taste of the moment.

And the dish that’s leading the way, in all its one-syllable glory… is pho (pronounced FUH?, with an upward, interrogative glide)… a rice-noodle soup, usually made from a light, spicy beef stock, typically enhanced with thin slices of beef from various cuts. It was once a specialty of Hanoi, but has become ubiquitous in Vietnam, with many families there enjoying pho three times a week.

But the touch that really sells it in have-it-your-own-way America is the add-in factor. Along with every bowl, you are served a platter of fresh, leafy, Southeast Asian herbs that you can drop whole into your pho — lots of them, so it ends up looking like a salad-topped soup! — or hand-torn into smaller pieces. Don’t think of missing the licorice-like Thai basil, the cilantro, or the rau, a kind of long, serrated-leaf, firm-chewing cilantro. You are also served fresh bean sprouts, fresh chiles, lime for squeezing… and you have access to the pho-doctoring hot sauce (sriracha) served on every table, as well as the funky-salty Vietnamese fish sauce that deepens the flavor.

2012-02-21-IMG_0692.jpgPho Binh Trailer’s plate of fresh herbs, bean sprouts, green chiles and lime for mixing into pho.

Food-minded urban residents all over the U.S. have been discovering this treat, usually at the small group of Vietnamese restaurants clustered at the edges of various Chinatowns (such as the strip of pho restaurants on Baxter Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown). But if you want the very best pho in America, you have to seek out the Vietnamese communities in those few American cities with very large Vietnamese populations. California leads the list, with almost 300,000 Vietnamese Americans in and around L.A., and another 125,000 in and around San Jose.

For me, however, the most compact and desirable of these delicious urban enclaves is in Houston, Texas (over 100,000 Vietnamese Americans), where many of today’s parents and grandparents were in the original waves of “boat people” who fled Vietnam in 1975. They came to the southeast Texas coast to work in the familiar shrimping industry — and, 35 years later, their traditional culture is still vibrant in shops and restaurants in the Houston suburb of Alief, sprawling across and around Bellaire Boulevard, south of Hobby Airport.

So where to go fo’ pho in this Texan welter of soupy possibilities?

On a visit to Houston a few days ago, and after asking a lot of questions, I was steered by local pho fanatics to one restaurant above all: Pho Binh Trailer, universally acclaimed as the best pho restaurant in Houston.

After paying a visit to Pho Binh Trailer — a rustic conglomeration of trailers, porches, barred windows, and a lovely view of the drainage ditch out back — I’m willing to call it the best pho restaurant in the country.

2012-02-21-IMG_0716.jpgThe reception is warm at Pho Binh Trailer

The clientele at Pho Binh Trailer is largely Vietnamese American

Why so good? Any pho restaurant rises or falls with its basic beef broth. This one is cooked for twelve hours, and contains the typical array of spices such as star anise and cinnamon. However, though these spicy flavors can often take over a pho, the Pho Binh version is subtle and beefy, miraculously clean. It is so good that there’s a limited quantity of it; if the cooks run out of this broth on a busy day… they simply close down the restaurant.

When you order pho at a pho restaurant, the variety of meats in your bowl is up to you — everything from long-cooked specialties such as beef brisket, beef tendon and beef tripe, to raw steak slices that only need a dip or two in the hot broth to develop their flavor (while holding their redness).

At Pho Binh Trailer, the beefy add-ons are particularly rich-textured and deep-flavored. I love the pho variation called Tai Nam Gau, which contains rare steak, brisket and “crispy fat” (which turns out to be a fatty cut of brisket). If you’re into the rare steak thing above all, ask for some raw beef on the side; you’ll be rewarded with a plate of super-cold, super-tender steak slices that warm up perfectly after a brief dip in the pho.

2012-02-21-IMG_0704.jpgThe raw sliced beef “side” at Pho Binh Trailer.

You will also find some of the best rice noodles in the country here — fresh, not the usual dried rice noodles, hand-made specifically for the restaurant — and, in an awesome Texas adaptation, wonderfully sweet and vibrant jalape??os on the herb plate. Fear them not.

Pho Binh Trailer — which is now a crowded weekend treat for many Houstonians — was founded in 1983 by the Nguyen family, who still run the operation.Their brand of pho ($5.50 for a regular bowl, $6.45 for a large bowl) is such a hit that they have expanded several times; today, you can find four Pho Binh establishments in the Houston area. But there ain’t nothin’ like pulling up to the originial — confusingly, sometimes called Pho Binh, sometimes called Pho Binh 1, and, most appealingly and frankly, often called Pho Binh Trailer.

It will always be Pho Binh Trailer to me, and always worth a detour.

Pho Binh Trailer
10928 Beamer Rd.
Houston, Texas 77089

If you’re interested in making pho at home on a chilly late-winter day, here’s a simple, streamlined, delicious recipe from my book It’s ALL American Food:

Basic Vietnamese Pho

makes 4 main-course servings

4 pounds meaty beef bones
5 quarts water
1 large onion, unpeeled
6 whole cloves
a 2″ piece of fresh ginger root
4 large shallots, unpeeled
3 whole star anise
a 3″ cinnamon stick (preferably Vietnamese)
8 ounces Vietnamese rice noodles (b??nh pho)
8 ounces sirloin or filet, very thinly sliced
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 loosely packed cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup sliced scallions (each slice 1/4″ thick)
2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam), or to taste

2 loosely packed cups of cilantro leaves
1 loosely packed cup of mint leaves
1 loosely packed cup of Thai basil leaves (or other basil leaves)
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 cup sliced scallions (ea
ch slice 1/4″ thick)
2 small red hot chilis (such as Thai bird peppers), thinly sliced
Vietnamese fish sauce (nouc mam)
hot sauce (like Sriracha sauce from Thailand)
2 limes, each cut into 4 wedges

1. Place the bones in an 8-quart stock pot, cover the bones with the water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. As soon as the broth comes to a bowl, lower the heat, bring to a simmer, and cover.

2. Meanwhile, peel the loose outer skin from the onion, but leave some skin on. Cut in half and stud each half with 3 cloves. Cut the ginger in half, and cut the shallots in half. Place a heavy cast iron skillet over high heat, and moderately char the onion, ginger and shallots. Add to the pot. Add the star anise and the cinnamon stick. Simmer the broth for 4 hours, occasionally skimming any impurities from the surface.

3. Strain the broth, clean out the pot, and return the broth to the cleaned pot. Let the meat bones cool slightly, then take off the meat, shred and set aside. Discard the bones.

4. Cook the broth, uncovered, over medium-high heat. Reduce until you have about 8 cups of liquid.

5. While broth is reducing cook the rice noodles in a separate pan of boiling water, taking care not to overcook them. Drain.

6. Divide the noodles among 4 large, deep soup bowls. Divide the thinly sliced meat and the reserved shredded meat into 4, and add to the bowls. Divide a cup of bean sprouts, a cup of cilantro and 1/2 cup scallions into 4, and arrange on top of the meats.

7. Bring the broth to a boil, and add fish sauce to taste. Season with salt, if necessary. Pour a 1/4 of the broth into each bowl. Serve at once with accompaniments.

from The Blog