Whenever I make Cà Ri Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Curry), the instantly recognizable aroma of curry spices, simmering in broth, perfumes the entire house. It gives such a warm and comforting feeling that tells me I'm about to have a great meal. And believe me, this meal never disappoints.
Most Asian cultures have its own type of curry - Thai, Japanese, Indian, just to name a few. The Vietnamese version is often stewed with bone-in chicken, potatoes, carrots and onions. The broth is infused with lemongrass, is mildly spicy and balanced with sugar and creamy coconut milk.
Vietnamese Chicken Curry is often served with rice vermicelli noodles called bún. It's also traditionally served with warm crusty baguettes. Tear off a piece of bread and dunk it in the rich curry sauce. The fluffy bread acts like a sponge to soak up all the curry goodness, while the crust gives great texture. It's the perfect bite!
Ingredient Notes for Vietnamese Chicken Curry
Curry powder comes in many different varieties. You can use any type of curry powder you can find or anything you have on hand. For this Vietnamese Chicken Curry recipe, I usually use Madras curry powder. Most Asian grocery stores carry it but they can also be found online. Madras curry powder is incredibly aromatic and slightly spicy, which I find is perfect for this recipe.
Ca Ri Ga works best with chicken thighs or chicken legs with the bone in and skin on. Every element imparts flavor to the dish so try to include the skin and the bone. Breast meat can be used as well but it's not preferred as it can easily become dry and overcooked.
To prepare the chicken thighs, cut them into large chunks. Each bone-in thigh has one bone running down the middle. Cut the meat off either side of the bone, then cut them into 2-3 inch pieces. If you're using chicken breast, cut it down to manageable sizes and if you're using chicken legs, keep them whole.
Tips for Making Extra Flavorful Ca Ri Ga
A step that my mom always insisted on was browning the potatoes before they're simmered in the curry sauce. This keeps the potatoes from falling apart as they cook and gives them a better flavor too. If you're short on time, you can skip this step. I certainly have on several occasions. However, the shortcut is noticeable so I definitely prefer taking the extra time to brown the potatoes.
To extract maximum flavor from the lemongrass, trim and discard the dry tops. Cut the stalks crosswise in half or thirds, whatever length your pot allows. The thicker base of the lemongrass is where all the flavor is. Use the butt of your knife to pound the base a few times, hard enough to bruise it but not too hard where it's falling apart. This will release loads of lemongrass flavor into your Vietnamese Curry. It's a simple step to get more out of your ingredients.
I hope you enjoy this old family Ca Ri Ga recipe. My mom has been making it since I was a child. My kids will be saying the same when they get older.
- 1.5-2 lbs chicken thighs or drumsticks, bone-in and skin-on
- 2 medium potatoes, cut into large pieces
- 1 white onion, large dice
- 4-6 medium carrots, cut into large pieces
- 4 tablespoon Madras curry powder, or any type of curry powder
- 2-3 stalks of lemongrass, trim top and cut crosswise into shorter lengths, bruise ends
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 5 oz coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- salt, to taste
Cornstarch Slurry (optional)
- 3 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3 tablespoon water
- Cut chicken thighs into 2-3" pieces. If using drumsticks, keep them whole. Season the chicken with salt and set aside.
- Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat and add a couple of tablespoons of oil.
- Add the potatoes and brown on all sides. Do this in batches to avoid overcrowding and set aside.
- Add a bit more oil, just enough to coat the bottom. Add chicken and brown on both sides. Do this in batches as well.
- Return the chicken to the pot and add diced onions. Sauté until slightly translucent.
- Stir in the curry powder and let it fry in the oil for a couple of minutes to draw out the flavor.
- Add potatoes, carrots, lemongrass and bay leaves.
- Pour in the chicken stock and enough water to cover the ingredients.
- Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over medium/low heat for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Your cook time may vary depending on the size of your potatoes.
- Remove the lemongrass and bay leaves. Add coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar.
- Season with salt to taste. The amount you need will vary depending on how much salt is in your chicken stock. Start with a teaspoon.
- If you prefer a thicker curry, stir in cornstarch slurry. Mix together cornstarch and water and stir in about half of the slurry to start. Let the curry return to a boil. If it needs to be thicker, repeat the steps with cornstarch slurry.
- Serve with crusty baguettes, rice vermicelli or steamed rice.