Take Indian spices. Bash them up against the flavours of Southeast Asia. And you get cà ri gà. Vietnamese chicken curry. Seriously tasty stuff.
Chicken curry. Sweet potatoes. Carrots. Potatoes. Coconut milk. Lemongrass. Fish sauce. How can this possibly not be awesome?
It’s not quite like Indian curry. Familiar. But different. It’s more like a soup. Thin. Brothy. Perfect for dipping bread. And that’s exactly how you should eat it. With bread. Crazy. But so good.
Vietnamese chicken curry is also really good with rice noodles. Leave the root vegetables out. Serve it up in a big soup bowl. Maybe a bit unconventional. But it works.
I don’t get why nobody is doing it. Like a Vietnamese version of laksa. I’m calling that one a glebekitchen original. Please tell me if I’m wrong.
Indian technique makes a better Vietnamese chicken curry
There are a lot of cà ri gà recipes out there that tell you to marinate the chicken in curry powder and then fry the chicken. That’s the really hard way. Train wreck waiting to happen.
The chicken sticks to the pot. The spices burn. It can go sideways fast. Maybe not every time. But often enough.
The easy way is to bloom the spices in oil. There’s a lot of curry powder in Vietnamese chicken curry. And when you put this much spice in a dish you run the risk of a gritty texture.
I cannot stand gritty curries. So I always bloom my spices in oil. It’s easy. And it makes a big difference.
Blooming is just a fancy way of saying frying spices. Hot oil. Moderate heat. Spices. Stir. That’s it.
One thing. You need enough oil. That is critical. If you don’t have enough you might as well fight spice coated chicken like everyone wants you too.
Fry the root vegetables to keep their shape
This is the no-holds barred version of Vietnamese chicken curry. It doesn’t have to be this complicated. But this extra step makes a difference.
If you want easy Vietnamese chicken curry skip frying the root vegetables. Brown your chicken in a bit of oil. And follow the rest of the recipe.
Probably a good idea to parboil the root vegetables though. Carrots longest, then potatoes and sweet potatoes last.
But if you want to go for it fry the root vegetables. Not until they’re done. Just long enough to colour them up.
It will shorten cooking times. It will make sure the chicken doesn’t overcook. And fried does taste better. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
And as long as you are frying the vegetables you might as well fry the chicken. It’s really no extra work. You’re already set up. Like I said. No holds barred.
Serve good baguette with your Vietnamese chicken curry
I’m going to get into trouble for this. For sure. I like my Vietnamese chicken curry with baguette way more than rice.
I am not a fan of rice with this curry. And I eat a lot of rice. Just doesn’t work for me here. Not saying it’s wrong. Just saying it’s not for me.
Rice gets lost. I like a spoonful of broth. A bite of chicken. And a bit of bread dripping with sauce. Rinse. Repeat. Lick your bowl clean.
Curry powder matters
This is Vietnamese chicken curry. Not Indian chicken curry. So don’t think that using Indian madras curry powder is going to work here.
It is not the same. I have both. I have compared the ingredients. They are not the same. They don’t taste the same. Don’t even look the same.
It’s not actually hard to find Vietnamese madras curry powder. Once you know what you’re looking for you will see it in just about every Asian grocer.
Look for a package or a container that says ca ri ni or Vietnamese madras curry powder. Or maybe Vietnamese cari powder. Depends on the brand.
It’s actually a pretty safe bet that it’s the right stuff if it says madras on it and your Asian grocer doesn’t stock Indian.
Make the effort to find it. It matters.
Vietnam meets India meets delicious
This dish mixes up some of my favourite tastes in the world. And it comes out just like you’d expect it to.
It’s more Indian than Thai. Closest to Malaysian if I had to pick anything. Doesn’t matter really. It’s just delicious. And what else matters?
Vietnamese chicken curry. If you are a curry fan and you like Vietnamese then this is one you should try.
vietnamese chicken curry – cà ri gà
- 3 tbsp Vietnamese madras curry powder not Indian madras curry powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 bay leaves
The root vegetables
- 10 oz sweet potatoes cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 lb carrots cut into 1 inch pieces
- 10 oz potatoes cut into 1 inch pieces. I use yukon gold.
- oil to shallow fry
Vietnamese chicken curry
- 2 lbs chicken skinless, bone-in. I like a mix of thighs and drumsticks.
- 1 cup shallots diced
- 3 stalks lemongrass cut in half
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 inch ginger minced as fine as you can get it
- 3 tbsp fish sauce – start with 2 tbsp and decide if you want more.
- 3 cups chicken stock no sodium
- 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil you need this much oil to bloom the spices. They will stick or worse, burn if you cut back.
- the root vegetables
- the spice mix
- cilantro and Vietnamese garlic chili paste to garnish
Do your prep
- Combine the curry powder, black pepper, turmeric and salt in a small bowl. Get your bay leaves ready
- Pick off the tough outer layer of the lemongrass. Cut each stalk into three even pieces.
- Peel the carrots, sweet potato and potatoes. Cut them all into 1 inch pieces
- Chop your shallots. Mince the garlic and ginger.
- Skin the chicken. Give is a liberal sprinkling of salt. You are now good to go.
Shallow fry the vegetables and the chicken
- A wok is great for this. If you have one use that. If you don't something around a 10 inch pot should also do the trick. You can go bigger but you will need more oil. You want the oil somewhere around 2/3 of an inch deep.
- Heat 2 cups of oil over medium heat (or thereabouts – remember around 2/3 inch deep). You are going for a temperature of around 350F for the oil. Slip in a piece of sweet potato. If lively bubbles form around it you know you're good.
- You'll need to do this in 2 batches. Shallow fry all the sweet potatoes and half the carrots. Use a slotted spoon to flip them around so they brown evenly. The sweet potatoes take about 3 minutes. The carrots take about 4 minutes. You are going for lightly browned on the sweet potatoes and kind of blistered looking on the carrots. When they are done transfer them to a bowl lined with paper towel.
- For the second batch fry the other half of the carrots and the potatoes. Light brown on the potatoes and blistered looking for the carrots.
- The oil is hot anyway so you might as well fry the chicken. GIve it around 2 minutes per side. You want colour but you aren't trying to cook the chicken through here. Transfer them to a bowl (no paper towel required) when the come out of the oil.
Make the Vietnamese chicken curry
- Heat the 4 tbsp vegetable oil over medium heat in a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the shallots and sweat until they are translucent and soft. This should take 3-4 minutes.
- Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute or so.
- Turn the heat down to medium low. Push the vegetables off to one side. You should have a puddle of oil in the middle of the pan. Its time to bloom the spices. Add the spice mix. Stir to make sure all the spice is well coated in oil. You may need a splash more oil if it looks dry. Don't worry, you can spoon off some of the oil at the end if you want. Blooming the spices is really important so err on the side of a bit too much oil.
- Cook the spices for about 90 seconds to 2 minutes. Be careful. You don't want the spices to burn. This step is critical. It's also a really good trick to have in your bag for anything heavy on spice (think Indian and Mexican).
- Add the coconut milk, the chicken stock and 2 tbsp of fish sauce. Give it a good stir. Add the carrots, potatoes and the chicken. Hold the sweet potato back. It takes a little less time to cook sweet potatoes.
- Toss in the lemongrass and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.
- Add the sweet potato and cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 170F for dark meat. This should take another 15 minutes. If you are using white meat you are going for 160F. Probably want to add your sweet potato in around 5 minutes sooner for white meat.
- To serve garnish with cilantro. Pass the garlic chili sauce along for people to add a bit more zing if they want. Serve with good crusty baguette.
9 thoughts on “vietnamese chicken curry – cà ri gà”
I am surprised to see this recipe here but also delighted. This was a childhood staple for me from my Viet mother’s cooking and I will love to make this recipe. Can confirm baguette is the way to go! I know she fries the chicken after marinating and through some magic of experience and love never burns it, but I would. Your method sounds more straightforward–will give it a try once I have time. Cheers, came here to learn Indian food and find even more, love your website so much.
That’s such a wonderful comment. Thank you:-) I hope enjoy it!
Hi Romain do you have a recipe for the Vietnamese Madras curry powder, I’m guessing anyone well stocked with spices would have all the ingredients required. If not could you share the ingredients list on the packet you use as I don’t have anywhere that sells it. Thanks
I am away from home right now so I can’t check but I did a little googling and I found what I think is the brand I have. The ingredients listed are: Curry (no idea what that means), Turmeric, Chili, Coriander, Cumin Seeds, Cinnamon, Cloves, Bay Leaves, Allspice and Salt.
Another one lists Coriander Seed, Cumin, Turmeric, Chili, Ginger, Cinnamon, Bay Leaves, Anise, Cloves and Salt.
Seems it is available on Amazon.
Hope this helps…
I have something called “Oriental Curry Powder” by S&B.
Would this be an acceptable substitute for the Vietnamese curry powder?
With the caveat that I haven’t tried this.
I’ve used S&B for Japanese curry. It has many of the ingredients but a few that are distinctly different (orange peel, thyme, sage, cardamom) so it’s won’t be the same. I bet it will be tasty though. It will just move to a bit of a Japanese flavour profile. And the fish sauce and lemongrass are flavour sledgehammers that will pull it back to Southeast Asian flavours.
It was indeed delicious, if more towards the Japanese curry end of the continuum, as you predicted. I picked up the real Vietnamese curry powder at an Asian market for next time.
I really loved this curry. If I had tried this dish somewhere, I would be begging whoever made it for a recipe.
I did everything as written, with one slight modification – used breast meat only just because that’s my preferance, and marinated chicken chunks in lemon juice and zest for about 30 min while cutting up and frying the vegetables. I kept myself from adding any chili powders so it wouldn’t turn too Indian, and I’m glad I exercised restraint here – it came out perfect as is. I’ve never fried anything in more than a couple of tablespoons of oil, so having what looked like an oil swimming pool bubbling on the stove was a new and cool experience. Chicken smelled diving while getting fried and got beautiful color. I also discovered that I prefer the minced ginger and garlic – in Indian garlic-ginger paste everything is pretty much turned into pulp, but here I could appreciate the crunch of individual pieces. My sauce came out thicker than your photograph, but I think that might be due to my using a brand of coconut milk that is extremely creamy – which is fine by me because I love the thicker consistency.
And thank you for specifying what to look for when choosing the curry powder – made it very easy to get the right stuff online.
I love this comment! Thank you for taking the time to write it. I’m so glad you liked it. And I’m extra glad you took the leap to play with the swimming pool:-)