Friday, March 11, 2011

Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Cà Ri Gà)

I've been craving Vietnamese Curry since I haven't had it in several months maybe even a year I've lost track of time. However it is one of my favorite dishes in Vietnamese cuisine.

So what makes Vietnamese curry "Vietnamese" and different from other cultures curries? In my opinion and from observing several cooks Vietnamese curries it's that they use a type of curry powder known as "Madras Curry Powder" they use a good quality fish sauce in their curries, as well as lemongrass in combination with onion, garlic, and ginger. And bring it all together with a touch of either half and half cream or coconut milk or whole milk. (I'm assuming using half and half cream or whole milk as an alternative to coconut milk sometimes is a french influence)

I am not an expert in Vietnamese cooking or anything, but have been exposed to a lot of it. The recipe I present today is a combination of Travis's aunts recipe (whom is Vietnamese) she made one of the best curries I had ever tasted using bone-in turkey meat I asked her for the recipe and she would grind all the aromatics (garlic, ginger, onion) and combine it with other stuff and use that paste to marinade meat, etc. and would use milk instead of coconut milk. The other influence in this recipe is his grandfather a wonderful humble cook, although he never shared his recipe when I would eat his curry I noticed a sweeter note in his (thus I added more sugar because I liked the sweeter note in his) and also added turmeric powder (because I noticed his curry had a stronger yellow tinge than other's and would even leave a yellow golden tinge on the serving bowl which I assume is the addition of turmeric) and the other influence was my taste, I love the fragrance of coconut milk so I used that, and although Travis's aunt uses sweet potato, and his grandpa uses a large taro I used potato and carrot in my curry because it's what I had and I assume it's not sacrilegious because I've seen it in some restaurants and in his mother's curry (I think)

So here's my recipe for it, give it a try, it turned out delicious, and as good as my fond memories of those awesome curries :D


-3- 4 lbs. whole chicken
-2- 4 tablespoons fish sauce (see note at end of recipe for this)
-salt to taste
-2 tablespoons sugar
-1 teaspoon ground black pepper
-3 tablespoons Madras Curry Powder
-2 teaspoons turmeric powder (gives nice color and touch in my opinion)
-1 whole onion chopped
-2 inches, peeled finely chopped fresh ginger root
-1/2 head garlic, peeled and chopped
-2 stalks lemongrass (you have two options you can either tie them or cut them in 3 large sections and add em to the stew I chose to finely mince the lower stalks, peeled first layer and finely chopped)
-1-4 thai chilies or other smaller spicy pepper minced (optional only if you like heat)
-4 regular potatoes (peeled cut into chunks)
-4 medium carrots (peeled cut into chunks)
-1 can good quality coconut milk or coconut cream (such as Chao Kho, or Mae Ploy or the first press of coconut milk that you make yourself at home about 2-3 cups) OR 2-3 cups half and half or whole milk

Garnish: -You may garnish with fresh cilantro or scallions


(1) Clean chicken well, rinse well, several times, and then submerge in water with salt and vinegar or lime and rub well then rinse off twice (this is just how we clean it at home you don't have to but I recommend it) take to chopping board and cut into 2 inch pieces (yeah cut through bone too)
(2) Mix chicken well with fish sauce to taste, salt to taste (if needed), sugar, curry powder, and turmeric. Set aside wash hands.
(3) In food processor add chopped onion, garlic, ginger, and very very very finely minced lemon grass and process to a paste. Mix seasoned chicken with this paste, cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinade in refrigerator at least 2 hours (preferably over night)
(4) When ready to cook, heat a large pot over high heat, add oil, and quickly sear chicken all over (making sure to remove any excess marinade/ paste before throwing in hot oil) in batches if necessary when meat is browned all over remove and quickly add other batch of meat to brown (if you werent able to brown it all in one batch)

(5) Add more oil to pot and add the marinade paste leftover and cook scraping any brown bits (those lend flavor) until raw smell is gone/ fragrant. Toss chicken pack in,
add enough water to cover meat barely, bring to a boil, taste if it needs more salt, add salt to taste, remove any foam, and cover to simmer 25 minutes.

Taste again and add more sugar or curry powder to taste (I added 1 more tablespoon in addition to the three I used to marinade chicken) and 1 extra tablespoon of sugar.

(6) After 25 minutes add carrot and potatoes
and simmer an additional 15- 20 minutes until carrot and potatoes are tender. Stir in coconut milk or whole milk or half and half cream (your choice, I like coconut milk because it's more fragrant. My ex's grandfather likes half and half cream, and one of his aunts used cow's milk so it's preference and personal taste at this point) WHen it comes back to a boil, turn off heat.

(7) Enjoy in a shallow bowl with some good french bread :)

(1) Use a good quality fish sauce, like a Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce. not a Filipino kind (which is good for Filipino food but it has a very harsh sharp taste) good brand of Thai opr Veitnamese fish sauce tend to have more complex taste, and lend a seafood taste like closer to shrimp or crab tasting, you can think of it as liquid crab, shrimp, and fish bouillon but it's tasty when used in moderation in a dish.

(2) Again if you do not want to finely chop lemongrass or buy it finely chopped, you can tie it a certain way or cut it into sections and boil it in the curry together with everything, then remov
it or leave it.

You DO NOT have to use carrot and potatoes. Travis's grandpa uses a fragrant large taro root that comes vacuum packed and slightly freckled with purple, those taro roots are very fragrant and delicious. Another alternative is using a large orange fleshed sweet potato, which you cut into large chunks and sear in oil all over (not cooking it through) and adding it to stew to finish cooking. The searing is done to prevent it from falling apart or melting into stew, even if it's slightly. My favorite is using sweet potato but I only had potatoes and carrots on hand, I've seen versions at some potlucks using a combination of cassava, potato and large carrot which was interesting :)

(4) These curry recipes work well with goat, mutton, lamb, beef, and even rabbit any gamey meat lends itself well to this dish. Just adjust cooking times accordingly.

Lastly... I apologize for the terrible pictures (heck not really it's my blog :-P) but yeah the photos are kinda funky because my camera is so broken and busted (still I haven't bought a new one) so I can't even see what I'm taking a picture of I just have to guess and hope I got a snap-shot of what I'm suppose to (since the display screen is all cracked)