Food File: Ca Ri Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Curry)
Vietnamese chicken curry (cà ri gà) is amazing for so many reasons apart from just the fabulous taste.
As you’ve probably already worked out, I think Vietnamese cuisine the best there is. But I also think Vietnamese people are the best cooks in the world, adapting and improving the recipes and cooking techniques they’ve been exposed to over the years. Vietnamese chicken curry is an example of this process of adapting.
First, there’s the name cà ri, adapted from “curry”. Vietnamese developed as a character-based language, so every word in Vietnamese is only one syllable. Therefore the two-syllable curry turns into two words: cà ri.
Vietnam has a long history of trading with India dating back to the second century. Indian spices — and possibly curries — may have been in Vietnam since then. Vietnamese cà ri may be adapted from an Indian dish or it could be a version of the curries of neighbouring Thailand, Cambodia or China – or even Japan, which occupied Vietnam for five years from 1940 until just after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed in August 1945.
Whatever its origins, cà ri gà is now considered a southern Vietnamese dish. It’s probably only me that thinks about all the things that could have influenced this dish as I eat it. Everyone else just focuses on how delicious it is. Comfort food, Vietnam-style.
Cà ri gà a yellow curry flavoured with lemongrass, full of chunks of onion, potato and sweet potato and chicken. Like some Thai and Cambodian curries, it features coconut milk. And it’s served with a baguette, a culinary relic of French rule.
There’s a famous cà ri gà place in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1 that Darling Man and I have been trying to visit for months. It opens at the lunch-unfriendly time of 2pm … when it opens. Each time we’ve driven into town for curry, we’ve encountered a shuttered-up curry shop.
Thankfully, chicken curry is easy to cook at home. This week Darling Man harvested a giant sweet potato from his rooftop garden … so we decided to cook cà ri gà.
We use a local curry powder in our version, something that I’m not sure is widely available outside Vietnam. However, when I went searching for a recipe online, most of the versions I found had “Vietnamese curry powder” or even just “curry powder” as an ingredient, which I didn’t think was too helpful. This recipe for Vietnamese curry pot pie from The Ravenous Couple uses Massaman curry paste, which might do the trick (although their curry looks oiler than ours).
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6 years ago