Vietnamese Chicken Curry
Most people (even those who say they don’t like curry) will enjoy this dish. I’ve made it many times (for my own parties and when catering) and it never fails to please. It’s adapted from Nicole Routhier’s book, The Foods of Vietnam, one of my favorite and most used cookbooks. The original recipe calls for one whole chicken (on the bone) cut into pieces. I prefer to use boneless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces, which I think makes it a little easier to handle if serving on a buffet or at a dinner party (and it doesn’t require a knife). The method is not complicated, but it does require time. Fortunately it can be prepped ahead of time, cooled, covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator until party/dinner time. It does freeze ok, but it does change the texture a bit so I would avoid that if possible.
- As always read the entire recipe and check for ingredients before proceeding!
- For experienced cooks – these instructions may be a little too detailed, but I want to make it as clear as I can for those who are newer to the kitchen.
- Lemon grass (3 fresh stalks or 3 tablespoons dried or 1/2 tube of minced located in produce department)
- 1 small-medium yellow or red onion, diced
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons curry paste (this can be red or green, mild or spicy, depending on your taste)
- 3 tablespoons curry powder (again, hot or mild, your preference)
- 1/4 cup nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce – don’t let the aroma throw you off. it’s pungent, but it works!)
- boneless chicken breast*
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
- 1-2 large onions, diced
- 3-4 large carrots, cut in disks
- 2 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
- 1-2 teaspoons salt (season as necessary – it will depend on amount of salt in the broth.)
- 1 can coconut milk
*I used 8 pieces of boneless chicken breast which served 10 adults for dinner and we had leftovers for 3 more dinners for us. I recommend using chicken with no hormones or antibiotics if possible. Telling the truth: we had this four (4) dinners in a row, including the party. It’s one of those things that just gets better and after 4, we were sad to see it go!
Make the Curry Paste
- Combine lemon grass, small onion, minced garlic, curry paste, curry powder and nuoc man in blender and process until it is smooth.
Prepare and marinate the chicken breast
- Trim the chicken and cut into bite sized pieces.
- Mix with curry paste. If not cooking immediately, cover and store in refrigerator.
- Peel carrots and cut into disks.
- Peel potatoes and cut into bite-sized pieces, place in cold water so they don’t begin to discolor.
- Dice onions (medium)
- Since the carrots and potatoes are both hard vegetables, they will be precooked to tender before adding to the curry. You can blanche or saute them. I blanched the carrots and sautéed the potatoes (to brown them and cook off some of the moisture), but either method is fine. If you blanche, bring a pot of water to a boil, add a 1-2 teaspoons salt. Drop carrots into boiling water and cook 3-4 minutes until you can pierce them with a fork or a bamboo skewer. Remove with slotted spoon and drop into cold water to stop cooking (this will also result in a nice bright orange color). Drain well before added to curry. Repeat with potatoes if you like.
- Add potatoes and carrots to pan with browned chicken pieces.
- Heat a heavy bottomed saute pan to medium-high. When the pan is hot, add a small amount of oil (I use olive oil) and add part of chicken to the pan. Do not crowd the pan or the chicken will not brown properly. Let the chicken cook 6-8 minutes until all sides are nicely browned and chicken is just cooked – do not overcook as you will be baking in the oven at the end of the process. Note: The curry paste will likely stick to the bottom of the pan during this browning process and you want to be careful to prevent it from burning, but you want to keep the browned bits because there’s lots of flavor there. So…keep some of the chicken broth handy while you are sautéing. When you remove browned chicken, add a little of the chicken stock, it will simmer and loosen the bits. Scrape stock and bits into container on the side, to be added back to the sauce later.
- As batches are finished, remove them to a roasting pan or casserole dish large enough and deep enough to hold all the chicken, vegetables and sauce.
- Continue browning chicken until all is brown!
Saute Potatoes (if you don’t blanche)
- If you are going to saute your potatoes, drain them well. Remove all curry paste/bits from the pan, return to medium high heat, add a little olive oil and add some of the potatoes to the pan (again, do not overcrowd the pan). Cook in batches until all are tender. Add to pan with browned chicken.
Make the Sauce
- In the same pan, heat a little more oil and add the onions. Saute til tender.
- Add chicken broth (including that with the browned bits!), and the coconut milk. Bring to a simmer for a few minutes. Check for seasoning (it may need a little salt and pepper but taste first).
- Pour Sauce over the chicken, carrots, potatoes.
- If you are not completing the curry immediately, let it cool completely to store safely, cover with foil and refrigerate until you are ready to complete cooking and serve.
- Now the hardest part is finished. When you are ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place covered pan in oven. It will probably take 1 hour (give or take, depending on the size of the pan and your oven) to heat the dish completely and ensure doneness. During the hour, remove the pan and give it a stir to ensure that it is heating evenly. It it’s completely finished and you’re not ready to serve it , just remove from the oven, it can sit for 20 minutes or so and remain hot until you’re ready.
- Serve with rice – yumyumgood.