Make your own blend of Vietnamese curry powder from scratch instead of using store-bought or if you don’t have access to a specialty Asian market.
Before any other curry touched my lips, there was Vietnamese curry. It was, and still is, a staple at my mom’s house.
Coconut- and tomato-based, thickened by starchy potatoes, I prefer my Viet curry not too soupy-thin yet not too stewy-thick. Like all curries and stews, it’s better the next day. Click here for the recipe to my Vietnamese chicken curry.
For the recipe on homemade Vietnamese curry powder, keep reading…
Until recently, I’ve been making my Vietnamese chicken curry with store-bought Vietnamese curry powder from Vietnam. But as I got down to my last curry packet, I resolved to grind my own spices and make my own blend.
I used to be unfamiliar and confused at all the different kinds of spices. Words like cardamon, fennel, and turmeric were all Greek to me. Especially fenugreek (hah!). But living in Dubai for the last four years and frequenting the spice counters weekly have helped me learn the different spices and their smells and tastes.
Making Homemade Vietnamese Curry Powder From Scratch
To start devising my own Viet spice mix, I first used Google to translate the Vietnamese ingredients in the back of my final curry packet. I don't know why I didn't go straight to Vianco, the manufacturer's website, because I later discovered that all the ingredients were listed there in English.
I happened to have every ingredient on the list except for annatto so off I went in search of that in Dubai. I did not find annatto seeds but I was able to find annatto powder (Dubai folks: I have seen it in Geant, Carrefour, and WestZone under the brand Mama Sita).
I love using my Cuisinart spice grinder to grind the whole spices for this homemade Vietnamese curry powder. It's awesome because (1) it comes with two stainless steel bowls so you can designate one for coffee and one for spices (so as not to contaminate the taste); (2) the bowls come with lids so you can store unused portions of the spices; and (3) the stainless steel bowls and lids are dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.
The Taste Test
For the taste test, I made three pots of curries - each identical in ingredients except for the spice powder used:
- Pot 1 - I used my last final packet of Vianco's Indian Chef curry powder;
- Pot 2 - I used my own homemade spice blend;
- Pot 3 - I used a Madras curry powder because most Vietnamese curries suggest substituting Madras if Vietnamese curry powder is not available.
All three pots of curries tasted very good but it was quite obvious from a side-by-side comparison that the Madras curry was very different. Not bad in any way, just different due to different spice combinations and ratios.
Scotch, as chief taste-tester in our household, and having tried both my mom's and my version of Vietnamese curry, had to sample all three pots of curry in a blind taste-test. He actually picked my own spice blend to be his favorite of the three - yay husband!
Personally, I like my own blend the best because with each batch, I think my nose may have led me to create a spice mix tailored to my own taste. I hope you get a chance to try this and let me know what you think.
If you like Vietnamese spring rolls, you can also use this Vietnamese curry powder recipe to make Chicken Curry Spring Rolls.
And all the spice blending experiments that didn't quite measure up?
I combined them all into a container to be used for future curry-surprise dishes :).
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Homemade Vietnamese Curry Powder From Scratch
- 4 bay leaves
- 8 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
- 2 teaspoon cumin seeds (or 1 teaspoon ground)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 4 star anise
- 1 teaspoon annatto powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons ground turmeric
Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat.
Toast whole spices for 30-45 seconds by placing them in the hot pan and occasionally shake the pan or stir the spices with a wooden spoon or chopsticks to prevent them from burning.
Place whole spices in an electric spice/coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder.
Add the powdered spices to the grinder and pulse for a few seconds to mix well.
Store in airtight container away from direct sunlight.
-Makes about 1/2 cup of curry powder.
-This is my recommended electric spice grinder from Cuisinart.
This post was originally published on November 13, 2011 and last updated May 18, 2017.