Remember the home-made Vietnamese curry powder recipe that I came up with? And how I promised to post the recipe for a Vietnamese curry stew that utilizes this curry powder? Well this is me keeping my promise :).
My mom made this Vietnamese curry stew quite often when I was growing up. The stew freezes very well so when she goes on vacation without my dad (like when she visits me in Dubai for months at a time), she will make a huge pot of this stuff and freeze them in quart-size containers so that my dad can defrost them as needed for dinner.
I still remember the first time I ever made this curry for Scotch – which was probably about seven years ago. I followed my mom’s instructions and so ended up with a huge potful – probably enough to feed a small army for months!
Even though it was only Scotch and I, I wasn’t worried because I figured that we would make quick work of the curry. However, when Scotch tasted it, he only ate a small bowl and wanted no more. I was left on my own to finish it all.
By the third day, I didn’t want to see curry ever again.
Of course, that was back in the day when I was just learning how to cook and Scotch was just learning how to appreciate Vietnamese food. Being used to more hearty stews and thick curries, my Viet curry seemed very watered down and bland to him.
These days, I make the curry consistency somewhere between a soup and a stew – not too watery and not too thick. If it’s too watery, I will add a little corn stach dissolved in cold water to thicken it up. Scotch now loves eating this curry and in a blind taste test, even preferred my own blend of spices to the store bought ones!
I like to add carrots, potatoes, and taro into my curry stew. In Dubai, I buy local taro (usually imported from Eqypt) that goes by the name of “gulgas” in the supermarkets here. It’s not as flavorful as say the stuff that’s imported from Thailand, but it’s a fraction of the price and doesn’t require me driving 30 minutes to the Thai market in Karama.
This is what the gulga looks like when peeled and halved:
I make a simplified version of my mom’s recipe by throwing everything into a large pot – my mom would probably prefer that I remove the browned chicken and then toss in the taro and potatoes to brown separately but I’m a big fan of one-pot meals and less dishes – and this version is just as flavorful.
The chicken is simmered in the stock until it falls off the bone. It’s best to use chicken drumsticks and thighs as the breast meat will dry out during the cooking process. I have also substituted duck legs for the chicken and the results were also fabulous.
I find that this is a very versatile curry and you can highly personalize it to your taste. You can vary the type and the amount of root vegetables in the recipe depending on your preference. And add more or less tomato paste/sauce if you like. Make it your own!
Just don’t forget the all important squeeze of lemon right before serving and it’s best to throw in some chopped fresh herbs at the very end – I tend towards cilantro and scallions, my parents also throw in Asian basil. In case you want to kick it up a notch – you can add fresh hot chillis or a squeeze of Sriracha sauce.
Oh, and Scotch goes the traditional route and dips French bread into his curry. Me? I prefer fresh egg noodles or 1/4-inch rice noodles.
- 2 lb (1 kg) chicken thighs and/or drumsticks
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 bags Vietnamese curry powder* (about 20 g total) or 4 tablespoons home-made Vietnamese curry
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 potato and/or sweet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 taro, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 large onion, cut into wedges
- 2 stalks lemon grass, smashed, no need to cut up so that it can be removed later
- 1-inch piece ginger
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 oz tomato paste or tomato sauce
- 1 quart (or 1 liter) water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2-4 tablespoons Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce
- 1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz)
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- fresh herbs, for garnish such as cilantro, scallions, Asian basil
- Rinse chicken with water, drain and pat dry with paper towels.
- Sprinkle 1 bag or 2 tablespoons home-made curry powder over the chicken and mix with your hands or spoon. Refrigerate chicken for 4 hours minimum.
- In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat.
- Toss in the minced garlic and fry for about 30 seconds.
- Add chicken and brown on all sides.
- Throw in the potatoes, taro, carrots, onion, lemongrass, ginger, bay leaves, tomato paste, water, sugar, and fish sauce and stir to thoroughly mix everything.
- Bring water to boil and add 2 more tablespoons of curry powder. Simmer 45 minutes.
- Add coconut milk and simmer 10 minutes.
- Salt and pepper taste.
- Serve with rice, noodles, or French bread. Add garnish and serve with lemon wedges.
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