Monday, January 3, 2011

Grandma's Vietnamese chicken curry

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year break!  Mine was almost too good.  Suffice to say I do not want to see another bottle of sparkling wine for a long time.  Time for some home cooking!  This is a wonderful, easy but authentic recipe from my friends M & S's mum.  It's a traditional Southern Vietnamese ca ri ga or chicken curry and is really unusual and delicious.  Best of all, it is very kid-friendly!

Chicken curry 001


2 chicken thighs/1 chicken breast
1 Tb Madras curry powder
1 Tb oil, eg rice bran
1 large can coconut milk (try Ayam or Mae Ploy brands)
1 piece lemongrass
2 bay leaves
1 clove garlic
1 onion, cut into large chunks
500 mL chicken stock
1 Tb white sugar
1 Tb or so fish sauce
1 carrot, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks

Chicken curry 002

Remove visible fat from chicken.  Rub with the curry powder and set aside for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, heat the oil in a deep frying pan and fry the chicken over medium heat until sealed.  Add a dash of coconut milk (about 1/4 cup) and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Chicken curry 003

Chop up chicken and return to the pan.  Next, separate the white bulbous part of the lemongrass from the top stalkier bit.  Cut into 2-inch lengths and give them a bash.  Add to the chicken along with the garlic, bay leaf and onion.  Cook for about 3 minutes then add 1 cup of chicken stock, 1 Tb of sugar and about 1 Tb of fish sauce and simmer for 20 minutes.

Chicken curry 004

Add chopped carrot, potato and sweet potato and the other cup of chicken stock.  Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.  The smell will be absolutely divine!

Chicken curry 006

Add the remainder of the can of coconut milk and heat gently.  Now is the time to taste to see if it needs more fish sauce.  Remove lemongrass before serving.

Chicken curry 007

This delicious curry can be served with rice or noodles but also traditional and best in M & S's (and my) opinion is a crusty bread roll from your local banh mi bakery.  It is so good.  The curry powder is quite sweet itself with very warm spices like cinnamon and just a hint of chilli.  The sauce is rich, abundant and almost like a curry laksa soup.  The root vegetables - seemingly so unusual for a Vietnamese recipe - soak up all the rich sauce and just melt in your mouth.  So supremely comforting.  Try with a glass of sparkling.  Oh my god, did I just say that?

I want to give a little shout-out to my friend Bryan's wonderful blog, let's get fat together.  Bryan is a great writer, takes vivid, wonderful pics and I love his gentle and reflective style.  He is currently getting pui (fat) in Singapore, rediscovering his roots and chronicling his family's Makansutra in the hawker bars and kopitiams of the island city.  Do check it out and Bryan, keep up the awesome work!


  1. I know what i'm cooking for dinner tonight. Thanks Lauren it looks wonderful, an authentic recipe is a thing of beauty. I also have been following Bryan's blog, he is fantastic, he writes so well. I'm sure we'll be seeing big things from him in the future

  2. Yum! I'll get Quyen on to that one. (How lazy am I!)

  3. A glass of sparkling? hmmm... will have to try that next time I have curry ;)

  4. Courtney let me know how it went! I would like to feature more home-cooking recipes on the blog this year so I hope you enjoyed it. Next time we have a Western subs meetup you should come along, now you are a blogger too!

    I accidentally published the African Taste post and had to take it down - it will be back Friday.

    Dani, not lazy! I am jealous!! :) Let me know if you like it.

    Penny, I would have said sparkling goes with everything but right now it is more like sparkling mineral water... oh my aching liver...

  5. I love a good ca ri ga, none more than my dad's. This looks like a great recipe though. One small thing, and I'm not sure if it'sa kid-friendly thing or a health thing, but for me ca ri ga is always made with bone-in chicken. Often drumsticks or wings, but that might just be a frugal thing on the part of vendors and my father. I think the fat and collagen which renders from the chicken skin and cartilage is part of what makes this dish so unctuous (read, oily and lip-smacking).

    And totally with you on the banh mi accompaniment. Wouldn't have it any other way.

  6. That looks pretty good. I like the idea of sweet potato in it. Never had a vietnamese curry before.

    Glad you had a great break, looking forward to more food adventures in 2011.

  7. Oh Laurrrrrren!! Drumroll please......The Curry was DELICIOUS!!!!!!!
    My partner J had 2 helpings. Thanks so much for a great recipe. I'll be making this again and again

  8. Oh and I love to meet everyone next time you have a food do! :)

  9. Oooo Lauren, you're the reason why I had three times as much views yesterday! Thank you so much for the positive mention. : )

    I spent 4 days in Vietnam and didn't even see Vietnamese curry in the food stalls around! I must've been trawling the tourist traps. hahaha!

  10. It's so true, these looks just like the way my mother makes curry, Viet curry is always much runnier and if the potato is done right, it's delicious!

  11. Great cooked tonight!!! Added some Viet Mint. Delicious

  12. Hi all! I will thank M&S's mum for you! So glad you like it.

    Deb, I think the root vegetables make it extra comforting and homely - like a curry soup Sunday roast (I know that sounds gross, but you know what I mean!)

    Courtney, it is definitely on the meal rotation for our family too.

    Bryan, it might be just homestyle perhaps?

    Billy, you are right, now that I think of it when I have eaten it at Tan Truc Giang it has been wingettes and drumettes and is extra rich and "lip-smacking".

    Thang, at first I did not want to put the whole can of coconut milk in as I thought "that will be too runny!" but sooo glad I did and besides, as you say, that is authentic.

    MR/Dad - yay!!! Oh, to have a bowl now! My peanut butter toast is so sad in comparison.

  13. Billy, I asked and just like your dad's, the original recipe did have bone-in chicken, but M&S (our generation) have modified it with boneless.

  14. going to try to make this tonight, finally! just wondering though - is it a 400ml can of coconut milk or more like 800ml? also - when you add the first 1/4 cup coconut milk, have you removed the sealed chicken by then or is it added TO the chicken?

    sorry haha..thanks!!

  15. Hi Danielle, I hope you like it! It is a 400 mL can or thereabouts (you know how sometimes they are like 425 mL) and yes you remove the chicken from the pan before you add the 1/4 cup coco. Make sure you give it a stir at that stage or it might stick. Let me know how you go!


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