Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Cà ri gà (Vietnamese chicken curry)

Vietnamese curries are often an altogether subtler affair than Thai ones. This is almost a curry and coconut flavoured chicken stew. It's mellow and soothing with only a gentle heat, but not at all bland. The chicken releases its goodness during cooking to create a lovely savoury-sweet coconutty broth, and the spices provide fragrance.

Served with crusty french bread (baguettes made partially with rice flour are very popular in Vietnam) or steamed rice it's perfect when you're feeling jaded on a cold winter night.

I'm not going to claim this as a wholly authentic Vietnamese dish, but it definitely bears some resemblance to what you'd find in that part of the world. I mention this as authenticity and whether it matters is something I've been thinking a lot about recently, there's a very interesting post and discussion about it here and it ties in to my experiences searching for good Thai food in Leeds.

I'd love to hear any opinions on this. Does authenticity matter? Has the word become meaningless when used to describe food? Should restaurants describe their food as authentic when it isn't? How do you define what's authentic in the first place?

Back to the recipe, which will serve 2 generously and takes around an hour and a quarter from start to finish.

What you'll need:

4 bone-in chicken thighs
1 medium-sized onion
1 large carrot
a few potatoes
1 tin coconut milk
1 tbsp curry powder (I use Bolst's)
1 tsp turmeric
1 small cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 tsp black peppercorns
3-4 large cloves garlic
1 large thumb-sized piece of ginger
1 tsp palm sugar (optional)
Fish sauce (I'm sure you can get Vietnamese fish sauce but I used Thai)
steamed rice or a baguette to serve

What to do:

1. Brown the chicken over a medium heat in a deep frying pan or wok for 10-15 minutes, then remove it from the pan and set aside. While the chicken is browning chop the onion.

2. Drain off most of the chicken fat from the pan, leaving just enough to fry the onions in then return the pan to the heat. Add the cinnamon, star anise and peppercorns to the pan and fry for a minute or so.

3. Add the onions to the pan and sweat them for around 10 minutes.

3. While the onions are sweating grate or finely chop the garlic and ginger and cut the carrot and potatoes into large pieces (keep them big otherwise they'll disintegrate too much). Open the coconut milk.

4. Add the garlic and ginger to the pan and fry for a minute or so, then add the turmeric and curry powder. Continue frying, stirring constantly for another couple of minutes. If it starts to stick loosen with a splash of the coconut milk.

5. Pour in the coconut milk then fill the empty can with water and pour that in too. Throw in the chicken, potatoes, carrot and palm sugar.

6. Simmer for around 40-45 minutes, until the chicken is starting to fall from the bones and the potatoes and carrot are soft.

7. Taste the sauce and season with as much fish sauce as you like.

8. Serve with crusty bread or rice.


Mr Noodles said...

The Vietnamese baguette served with your curry is in itself a good starting point for a discussion on the A-word. In many respects, it is authentically Vietnamese but does its French origins make it less so? Is perhaps 'traditional' a better word to describe 'authentic' food? I could go on and I have done on my own blog post that you've kindly linked to!

What I would say is that I'd like to see dishes popular in say Bangkok, Hong Kong or Delhi available in the UK's ethnic eateries. Whether these dishes are authentic or not, well that's another matter entirely!

Dave said...

You're right, this debate could go on for ever! I guess ultimately it's more about good versus bad versions of dishes rather than authentic or inauthentic. The two issues become confused because the word 'authentic' is often used to describe crappy, dumbed down versions of Asian food. ...but then good v bad is of course largely subjective.

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