Sunday, September 21, 2014

Vietnamese Chicken Curry...

I never really appreciated Vietnamese chicken curry until I had it prepared by my husband's family in Montreal. Long before we had children, our bi-annual six hour drive to visit, often arriving in the middle of the night, was almost always greeted at the door with the beautiful wafting aroma of curry. Although the curry paste contains many pungent flavourings, the result is a delicate, mild rustic dish, comforting and delicious with cooked noodles or toasted-until-crusty Vietnamese bread. I finally asked for a recipe and have been making it for a casual dinner or as a special occasion, such as my husband's birthday. I also referred to an amazing Vietmanese cookbook called "Little Vietnam", written by chef Nhut Huynh which I highly recommend for Vietnamese home cooking. His curry paste recipe which I recited here is to-die-for!

It is an integral part of Vietnamese cooking to cook meat on the bone, so stripping the bones is part of the ritual of eating. Since the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, it is easy to pop the piece of meat in your mouth, bones and all, and remove a perfectly stripped bone. Just make sure you put a big empty bowl in the middle of the table to collect them all!

Vietnamese Chicken Curry
Makes 6 servings

3 lb. chicken drumsticks or a whole 3 lb. chicken, cut into eight pieces
5 Tbsp. curry paste 
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. oil
2 cans (400 mL) young coconut juice
2 cups chicken stock
1 lb. potatoes, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
1 stalk lemongrass, bruised (optional)
green onions, sliced and cilantro, chopped and lemon wedges for garnish
steamed rice, cooked vermicelli noodles or bread rolls to serve 

Curry Paste (Makes one cup)- a lot of ingredients and may seem time-consuming but trust me it's worth making!
2/3 cup oil
1 onion, chopped
5 Tbsp. frozen thawed or fresh lemongrass, finely chopped, tender inner part of bottom third only
2 Tbsp. chopped ginger
2 Tbsp. chopped galangal
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
2 Tbsp. turmeric
3 tsp. salt
10 dried chilies, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes, drained and chopped (optional)
1 cup cilantro stems and root, well cleaned and chopped (about two bunches)

Heat 2 Tbsp. of oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, lemongrass, ginger, galangal and garlic and stir constantly for one minute. Reduce the heat to medium and add water, a Tbsp. at a time until all the water is used. Remove from heat and add the cumin, coriander, turmeric and salt. Transfer to a food processor along with the remaining oil, chilies (if using) and cilantro roots and process to form a coarse paste.

TIP: Leftover paste keeps well in the fridge in an airtight container covered with a thin layer of oil for up to two months.

Mix the chicken pieces with curry paste, fish sauce and sugar in a large bowl, turning to coat the chicken completely. Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight in fridge. 

Heat the oil in a large pot or skillet over high-heat, then add the chicken and marinade and cook for three minutes or until lightly browned. Add the coconut juice, chicken stock, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered for 30 minutes.

Add the potatoes and lemongrass and cook for a further 20 to 25 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked and the chicken is tender.

Serve the garnishes of green onions, cilantro, lime wedges and sambal oelek (Vietnamese chili sauce) at the table. 

I love dipping the chicken meat in a sauce made of fresh lime juice, salt and black pepper. Something my husband got me into. The tangy salty flavour really complements the tender chicken. Serve chicken and potatoes in a little curry broth with a chunk of crusty bread to sop...

Or as a soup with thick vermicelli rice noodles...

Eat it however you like... it's so-O darn good any which way you serve it...