Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ca Ri Ga--Vietnamese Chicken Curry

Chicken curry comes in many guises.  There is jungle curry from Laos and northern Thailand that doesn't include coconut milk, red and green curries from central and southern Thailand, variations throughout Malaysia and Indonesia, other variations from India, and then there is ca ri ga, Vietnamese chicken curry.  I don't believe I've yet had a chicken curry that I haven't enjoyed, but of all of them the Vietnamese version is my favorite.  It is spicy, but not incendiary, with a nice balance of coconut milk in its base.  Served with a freshly baked baguette, it made for an especially comforting dinner on an unseasonably cool spring night.

There are many recipes for ca ri ga out there.  Although I have tried many of them, I keep coming back to this one, which I have been using for the last twenty years or so.  Its use of both curry powder and curry paste, the use of less coconut milk than some other recipes, and the frying of the potatoes before adding them to the sauce are what set this curry apart.  Like other curries and stews, this is a dish that may be even better the next day.  It also freezes well, so you may want to double the recipe. 

The recipe comes (slightly adapted) from The Foods of Vietnam by Nicole Routhier, the first Vietnamese cookbook I ever bought and still one of my favorites.

Ca Ri Ga

3 stalks fresh lemongrass, tender, lower third only, chopped
4 shallots, peeled and chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 to 3 fresh red chile peppers, seeded and chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 TBS Madras curry paste
3 TBS Madras curry powder
3 TBS fish sauce
1 chicken, 3 to 4 pounds
2 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch thick slices
2 white-fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch slices
2 bay leaves
1 large onion, cut into eighths
2 large ripe tomatoes, core, seeded and cut into eight wedges (I didn't have any tomatoes in, so left them out this time, but do think they add to the curry)
2 cups chicken stock made from backbone, neck and gizzards of the chicken
salt, to taste
2 large carrots, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 can coconut milk
2 tsp cornstarch (optional)

Cut the chicken into serving pieces, reserving the backbone, neck, and gizzards for making the stock.

In a food processor, combine the lemongrass, shallots, garlic, sugar, chilies, pepper, curry paste and powder, and fish sauce.  Process to a very fine paste.

In a pie plate or similar dish, spread the paste all over the chicken pieces .  Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

Heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes and brown on all sides. Drain the potatoes on paper towels.

Remove all but 3 tablespoons of the oil from the Dutch oven.  Scrape the paste from the chicken and reserve.  In batches to avoid crowding, add the chicken pieces to the pan and brown on all sides.  Remove the browned pieces to a clean platter.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a clay pot.  Add the paste and bay leaves to the oil . (Of course, you may choose to continue using the Dutch oven.  The advantage of using a clay pot is that it not only looks nice on the table for serving, but also retains the heat well.) Stirring to keep the paste from burning, fry for about two minutes before adding the onions.  Continue to stir and cook the onions until they are lightly browned.  Add tomatoes, and stir to coat with the paste.  Add the chicken broth and chicken pieces and bring to a boil.  Add salt to taste, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.  Add carrots and potatoes and simmer another 20 minutes.

Dissolve cornstarch in the coconut milk (or mash one of the potato pieces).  Add the coconut milk to the curry and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.  Be sure to stir during this final cooking time to prevent the curry from sticking on the bottom of the pot.

Serve in shallow bowls with rice or French bread.

I am submitting this to Delicious Vietnam #12, a monthly blogging event celebrating Vietnamese food.  Founded by Anh of A Food Lover's Journey, and Kim and Hong of Ravenous Couple, Delicious Vietnam welcomes submissions from bloggers around the world.  To learn how you might participate, click here.  The roundup for Delicious Vietnam #12 will be hosted by Anh of A Food Lover's Journey. Check out the roundup to find the details on who will be hosting Delicious Vietnam #13.

1 comment:

  1. I love this dish a lot. I think it's much milder than the Malaysian/Singaporean counterpart, but that's the appeal!


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