Thursday, 6 October 2011

Cà ri gà - Vietnamese chicken curry with sweet potato

Indian culinary influences are more pronounced in the South of Vietnam so consequently one finds more curries there and in the centre - that said, the curries do tend to be more stew-like with a soupier sauce than their Indian or Thai counterparts. Another difference is that unlike Indian and Southeast Asian curries, pastes are less likely to be employed and a spice powder blend is used instead. 

You can either make this yourself if so inclined or, as appears to be entirely acceptable, use a store bought Indian curry powder - Madras appears to be that used most frequently but what you do need to ensure is that it is more yellow in colour than red. A little star anise, as used in South Eastern Asian, including Vietnamese cooking quite frequently (but not generally found in Indian powders) could be ground and added to the bought powder if you like.

You’ll need to start this at least an hour and a half before you want to eat to allow for marinating time. You could, if you like use normal potatoes instead of sweet if that is all you have or can get hold of.

This is inspired by that in "Curry" and also a few other recipes I’ve seen online.

Cà ri gà
Serves 2

300g chicken thighs
1½ tbsp (heaped) Vietnamese Cari or failing that Indian curry powder
½ tsp palm sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp rapeseed or groundnut oil + 2 tsp
1 medium sweet potato, peeled & cut into 1in cubes
2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 banana shallot, diced
400ml can coconut milk
100ml water
1 tsp annatto seed, ground (optional - I just happened to have some after a Mexican ingredient shop)
1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves removed, then bruised by bashing with a rolling pin
1 large kaffir lime leaf, torn
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 large carrot, peeled and cut diagonally into 1½ - 2in long pieces

First mix together 2 heaped tsp of the curry powder with the sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss well to coat then marinate for at least one hour.

When ready, heat the oil in a large pot or sauté pan over a moderate heat and brown the sweet potato pieces for about 5 minutes - you want them browned all over but not cooked through. Transfer to a kitchen paper covered plate and set aside.

Add the chicken to the oil in the pan, skin side down and cook for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally to brown all over. Again, remove and set aside on kitchen paper.

While the chicken is browning, in a separate small pan, sauté the annatto seeds in a couple of tsp of oil until they release their red colour and aroma. Remove from the heat and set aside, discarding the seeds.

Add the garlic and shallots to the large pan in which you cooked the chicken and fry for about 5 minutes until softened and lightly coloured. Add the rest of the curry powder, coconut milk, water, annatto infused oil if using, lemongrass, lime leaf, fish sauce and carrots. Mix and cook for about 1 minute before returning the chicken and sweet potato to the pan.

Bring to the boil again then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for a further 20-30 minutes so the chicken is cooked through and the sweet potato and carrots are tender.

Serve with rice, or if feeling authentic, a baguette - a Vietnamese one would be excellent if you can lay your hands on one (or make it yourself!).

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