Make this Vietnamese chicken curry with store-bought or with my homemade Vietnamese curry powder. Like all stews, it tastes better the next day and also freezes very well.
Vietnamese chicken curry (or cà ri gà) is a simple stew that is a wonderfully flavorful and cooks up super fast. It also works well with duck drumsticks but will require a longer cooking time.
It’s best to use Vietnamese curry powder which is what gives this dish its unique flavors. If you can’t find Vietnamese curry powder in your local Asian grocery store, you can make your own with my recipe here which I’ve spent weeks researching and taste-testing. You can also substitute Madras curry powder which will work but won’t taste as authentic.
The recipe is simple:
- marinate chicken
- heat oil and toss in garlic
- brown chicken
- toss in everything else (except coconut milk)
- cover ingredients with water and simmer 30 minutes
- add coconut milk and simmer a further 10 minutes and you’re done!
Serve over rice noodles, wheat noodles, or like my dad, you can just dip in chunks of French bread.
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 my husband Scotch – which was probably more than a decade 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 a Thai supermarket 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 skin-on chicken drumsticks and thighs as the breast meat will dry out during the cooking process. If substitution duck legs, remember in increase the simmering time until the duck meat is very tender.
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/Thai 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.
Also check out my other Vietnamese recipes:
- Vietnamese Pho (Beef Noodle Soup)
- Vietnamese Curry Powder From Scratch
- Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Soup
- Vietnamese Beef Sate with Egg Noodles (Mì Bò Sa Tế)
Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Cà Ri Gà)
- 2 lb (1 kg) chicken thighs and/or drumsticks
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 bags Vietnamese curry powder* (about 20 g total) or 4 tablespoons home-made Vietnamese curry
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 potato 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 (peeled and halved so it can be easily removed later)
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 1 quart water (or 1 liter)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2-4 tablespoons Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce (depends on strength and saltiness of your fish sauce brand)
- 1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz)
- salt and 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 of store-bought (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 the remaining bag of curry powder (or 2 more tablespoons of homemade). Simmer 30 minutes.
- Add coconut milk and simmer 10 minutes.
- Salt and pepper taste. Remove ginger slices and lemongrass if possible.
- Serve with rice, noodles, or French bread. Add garnish of fresh herbs and serve with lemon wedges.
This post was originally published on December 29, 2011 and last updated on May 8, 2020.
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