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I love curry, especially Vietnamese chicken curry. Specifically, my mother’s version of it. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized other cultures also had curry dishes.
As a kid, I wasn’t exposed to many different cuisines. Obviously we ate lots of Vietnamese food. I ate school lunches where in addition to the American hamburgers and pizza, we were served gumbo, cornbread, greens, and jambalaya. Plus those potato rolls and little paper cups filled with honey peanut butter were to die for.
I trekked out to the one Indian restaurant in my town and fell in love with naan, curried lentils, and more. When my sister returned from teaching English in Japan, she introduced me to that country’s style of curry stew. Then there’s the very spicy Thai curries, both red and green.
There’s so many more curried dishes to try, but my mom’s chicken curry is my favorite.Now I’m making it for my kids. The soup has become a comfort food for them, too.
About ingredients for Vietnamese chicken curry
Lemongrass: The woody stalks aren’t meant to be eaten, but used to add fragrance and flavor to the soup. If you can’t find fresh lemongrass, leave it out altogether. The frozen and dried just don’t taste that good.
Curry: Technically curry is a blend of many different spices, which can include turmeric, coriander seeds, chiles, cumin seed, bay leaves, allspice, cloves, anise, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, and more. Which spices and what proportions vary from culture to culture. I use Madras curry powder, which I buy from my local H-mart (Korean American supermarket). Feel free to try different brands and blends to see which works best for your tastebuds.
Chicken: I use chicken thighs in this recipe because the dark meat can handle the long simmer needed. Breasts will become overcooked before the potatoes are tender. If I’m feeling lazy, I’ll toss in whole pieces of drumsticks and thighs.
Coconut milk: The amount of curry I use has a mild flavor, but that’s still too spicy for my daughter. Canned coconut milk added towards the end of cooking soothes the spiciness and adds creaminess to the broth.
Remove the lemongrass stalks before serving so guests don’t think they have to eat them! Serve your Vietnamese chicken curry with crusty bread or rice. You can even try vermicelli noodles–that’s how my mother served it.
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, cut into 3" pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2" strips
- 2" inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 Tablespoon Madras curry powder (or other mild curry powder)
- 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2" pieces
- 2-3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2" pieces
- 4-5 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2" chunks
- 2 cups of chicken broth
- 4-5 cups of water
- 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 15-oz can of coconut milk
- Lime wedges and cilantro for garnishing
- In a dutch oven or large pot, heat vegetable oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Add lemongrass and onions. Cook until onions turn translucent and soft. Add garlic and ginger. Cook until you can smell them--about 2 minutes. Stir in curry powder and cook until fragrant--about 2 minutes.
- Next, add chicken to the aromatics and lightly brown. About 5-7 minutes. Stir and brown other side of chicken as needed. Season with salt and pepper.
- Once chicken has browned, add chicken broth. Scrape up any brown bits stuck to bottom of the pot. Add potatoes, carrots, and fish sauce. Top off the pot with water, leaving at least 1" for room to simmer.
- Bring soup to a bowl, then turn down to a simmer. Cover.
- Cook until potatoes are tender. Add coconut milk and allow soup to come back to a simmer. Taste and season with salt, black pepper, and/or fish sauce as needed.
- Serve with steamed rice, rice vermicelli noodles, or crusty bread. Garnish with cilantro and squeeze of lime.
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