Cà Ri Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Curry)

Cà Ri Gà

Vietnamese is easily one of the top requested foods people ask me to post recipes for. Of course it’s one of my favorite cuisines but to actually quantify measurements in Vietnamese dishes is really tricky. Like Mom and our aunties, I kind of throw a bit of this and a couple of more dashes of that until I like the flavor results.

So please bear with me as I try to share more delish Vietnamese dishes this year and know that you can always adjust amounts (more heat, less nước mắm…) to your hearts content.

Cà Ri Gà

Cà Ri Gà is the Vietnamese version of a chicken curry stew and I LOVE IT. It’s hearty, incredibly aromatic and the flavors get better over time. The rich Cà Ri Gà can be served with jasmine rice or over rice noodles. However my preferred carb accompaniment is with crusty, toasted baguette so that you can dunk pieces in the sauce and gobble it on up.

Cà Ri Gà

I kind of think of Cà Ri Gà as the Vietnamese approach to fusion as a lot of components pull from various cultures. The curry spices itself are from South India – the Vietnamese call it “Cà Ri Ấn Độ“. I like to use a Madras curry blend–a paste in fact but Madras curry powder will also do the trick. As for the coconut milk and kaffir limes – I think of those as classic Thai flavors. And of course the baguette comes from the very heavy French influence in Việt Nam.

Cà Ri Gà

Cà Ri Gà is not difficult to make but like so many other memorable dishes, it does take some time to layer flavors. And trust me, it’s completely worth the few extra steps.

Start off by taking a chicken (it is chicken curry after all) and break it down into 8 pieces. Of course you can use whatever cuts you prefer but I would suggest leaving the skin on and bone-in for more flavor. Mo’ flavor, mo’ better!

Slather the chicken in some of the curry paste and other aromatics –then allow it marinate for several hours.

Cà Ri Gà

After the chicken has had ample time to steep in all the delicious aromatics, lightly brown the meat on both sides.

Browned goodness = Awesome flavor

Tip: Before browning the chicken, wipe off some of the aromatics as they can burn from the high heat in the pot.

Burned garlic/ginger = No bueno flavor

Cà Ri Gà

Remove the chicken after it has browned and saute some other goodies. I’m telling ya, Cà Ri Gà is an aromatic party!

Cà Ri Gà

Then add in a few dollops of the Madras curry paste and cook it down for a minute or two. The heat will release the natural oils from the spices that will add magic to your sauce.

Flavor Magic.

Cà Ri Gà

At some point you’ll also want to smash up some lemongrass stalks. But do me a favor and be careful while you’re hacking away.

Cà Ri Gà

In goes the coconut milk, chicken stock, beaten up lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and a few dashes of Vietnamese Liquid Gold (fish sauce)……..

Cà Ri Gà

Then the taters, carrots and chicken…………

Cà Ri Gà

And then about an hour later you’ll be ready to get down on some honest to goodness Cà Ri Gà! The chicken should be fork tender and swathed in the luscious curry sauce that is incredibly fragrant from the lemongrass, ginger and kaffir.

Should you find yourself with leftovers, take a tortilla and spoon some basmati rice in the center. Top the rice with the Cà Ri Gà, a few spoonfuls of the sauce and you’ll have an insane Cà Ri Gà Wrap! It also freezes really well.

Cà Ri Gà

And with that dear Friends – Ăn Ngon!

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Cà Ri Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Curry)
Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken (4-5lbs), broken down into 8 pieces
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons minced garlic, divided
1 tablespoon finely minced lemongrass
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided (*more to taste)
5 tablespoons Madras curry paste, divided
1 cup diced white onions
1 inch fresh garlic, sliced into thin matchsticks
2 whole red Thai chilies, minced (*more to taste)
1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
3 cups chicken stock
2 stalks lemongrass
6-8 fresh kaffir lime leaves (2-3 bay leaves can be substituted if needed)
1 pound peeled potatoes, washed and cut into large pieces
3-4 medium sized peeled carrots, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
toasted baguettes

In a large bowl, add the chicken pieces, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, shallots, minced garlic, minced lemongrass, minced ginger, black pepper, sugar, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, and 2 tablespoons of curry paste. Thoroughly coat the chicken and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the chicken in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for 6-8 hours.

In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat the remaining oil to medium. Brush off the larger shallots/garlic/ginger pieces from the chicken (to prevent it from burning) and in batches, lightly brown the chicken on both sides—about 5-6 minutes. Place the browned chicken on a large plate.

Once all the chicken has been browned, discard all but 1 tablespoon of the oil/grease from the pot. Throw in the diced onions and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, chilies and saute for 1 minute before adding in the remaining curry paste. Cook for an additional 30-40 seconds to allow the aromatics and spices to release their oils and bring out their flavors.

Pour in the coconut milk and chicken stock. Take the back of a knife and smash the lemongrass stalks several times to bruise the stalks and release its oils. Add the bruised lemongrass, kaffir leaves, and remaining fish sauce to the pot. Place the potatoes and carrots in the pot and add the chicken. The items should mostly be submerged in the liquids.

Bring the liquids to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook the curry, partially covered, on a low simmered heat for 50-60 minutes. Once done, the chicken should be very tender and the sauce has reduced by about ½.  Taste and adjust with additional fish sauce and black pepper as needed.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve hot with toasted baguettes (or rice, noodles, etc.).

Basic Chicken Stock 101

Chicken Stock 101

For the record, let me say that I swear by store-bought stocks. I always try and keep the pantry equipped with cans/boxes of them to add to my dishes for that extra oompf. However, when given the chance, I do prefer to use my homemade stocks. More often than not, the flavor is a bit “cleaner” and I know exactly what’s in it.

Chicken Stock 101

Now generally when I make stocks, it’s because I don’t want to waste any of the leftover bones from a different dish we’ve prepared or when I’ve broken down a whole chicken and there’s an entire carcass (I know, kind of an ick word but I don’t know what else to call it) & other parts remaining.

After placing the bones in a large pot, I throw in any fresh herbs hanging out in the produce drawer of my fridge and cover it all with water. The goodies simmer for a few hours before it’s cooled to room temperature and then refrigerated for several hours. The pot is then strained and Voila– homemade stock that can be used right away or stored in the freezer for whenever you need it.

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Basic Chicken Stock
Makes approximately 5 quarts

Ingredients:

1.5-2 pounds chicken parts (I use the leftover carcass, wings, etc.)
1 large white onion, quartered
3 medium sized carrots, halved
4 stalks of celery, halved
1 whole garlic clove, split in half
1/2 bunch fresh parsley
15 sprigs fresh thyme
5-6 sprigs fresh sage
3-4 dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon peppercorns
2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 quarts cold water

Place the chicken parts, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and fresh herbs into a large stock pot. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, salt and pour in the cold water.

Bring the pot with its contents to a rolling boil and then lower the heat to simmer, partially covered, for about 3 hours. Allow the pot to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Remove and discard the larger pieces from the pot. Strain the remaining contents through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer. The stock can be used immediately, stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days or kept frozen in the freezer for about 3 months.

Korean Feast for Sunday Family Dinner + Happy Birthday Nina!

August 2013 Korean Family Dinner

My eldest niece, Nina, turns 15 today *gulp*

Don’t ask me how it happened but within a blink of the eye, our super chubby little baby turned into a beautiful and intelligent young woman. The bday gal requested Korean for last week’s Sunday Family Dinner and we willingly obliged.

We LOVE Korean food! And as I’ve shared before, our mom went through an extensive phase where she cooked all types of Korean dishes to dazzle her guests.

August 2013 Family Dinner

As always, we cooked way too much food. But what can we say, we wanted a “little” bit of everything and leftovers are a good thing in our book. A HUGE thanks to Emily Kim, author and founder of Maanchi, whose recipes were heavily used in our menu that night.

As for the menu…..

What’s a Korean meal without some type of Kimchi? Eldest seester started a week before our dinner and prepared a ridiculous amount of Kimchi—and I mean a TON OF KIMCHI! Though I’m not complaining as we each got to take a jar home.

Kimchi

We had crispy, Grilled Pork Belly served with an acidic, vinegar based dipping sauce…….

Grilled Pork Belly

A huge pot of bubbling Soondubu Jjigae – Soft Tofu Stew with lots of seafood……

Soondubu Jjigae - Soft Tofu Stew

Plates of Haemul Pajeon - Seafood Pancake……….

Haemul Pajeon - Seafood Pancake

You can see that the there’s definitely more “filling” than batter in these pancakes.

Haemul Pajeon - Seafood Pancake

And there was a huge pan of Ddeokbokki – Spicy Rice Cakes which is one of my personal faves. Mimi (my oldest friend/ex-roomie) used to make this all of the time for me in grad school and it’s carboliciously, delicious.

Ddeokbokki - Spicy Rice Cakes

We also had Galbijjim – Braised Beef Short Ribs that just fell off the bone. Slightly sweet and incredibly tender. Man, my mouth is watering just remember this goodness…..

Galbijjim - Braised Beef Short Ribs

And there was some Kimchi Bokkeumbap – Kimchi Fried Rice.

Kimchi Bokkeumbap

And last, for dessert, Patbingsu – shaved ice. We adorned ours with sweet red beans, fresh fruits, mochi, tapioca and a drizzle of condensed milk.

Patbingsu - Shaved Ice

And that’s how we roll–Korean style!

Happy 15th Birthday Nina-love!!!! May this year bring you success in school (and tennis), laughter, happiness and adventures (in moderation, of course :) )

xoxo!

August 2013 Family Dinner

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli

I’m kind of in love.

With this soup, that is.

It’s warming and fulfilling with tons of veggies, beans, sausage, and pasta. I also threw in some beautiful Swiss Chard at the end for some added texture and flavor— but any type of dark, leafy green could do the trick. Extra veggies never hurt a gal, right?

Depending on how you like the consistency of your soup, you can either add or limit the amount of chicken broth. I personally like mine on the soupier side so I can dunk some crusty bread in.

But one thing is for certain. No matter how you prefer it, this Pasta e Fagioli is the ultimate comfort food.

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Pasta e Fagioli
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Pound Spicy Italian Sausage, casings removed
1 Cup White Onion, diced
1 Cup Celery, diced
1 Cup Carrots, diced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Garlic, finely minced
1 28-Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes
1 15-Ounce Can Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
6 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth, or more depending on desired consistency
3-4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme Leaves
2 Dried Bay Leaves
¾- 1 Cup Macaroni Noodles, or other short pasta
¼ Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
3 Cups Swiss Chard, cleaned and roughly chopped
Kosher Salt and Pepper

In a large dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil over medium. Add sausage and use a wooden spoon to crumble up the meat. Continue browning until the sausage is barely pink. Add the onions, celery, and carrots to the pot and sauté until the vegetables have softened. Add in the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Pour in the tomatoes with its juices and Cannellini beans. Add chicken stock, thyme and bay leaves. Partially cover and bring the pot to a boil. Remove the lid and stir in the pasta. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until pasta is al dente—about 10-12 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves and thyme stems. Stir in the cheese and Swiss Chard. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Turkey and Bean Chili for Eat, Live, Run

Turkey and Bean Chili

Hi Friends!

I had the privilege to guest post yesterday for Jenna over at Eat, Live, Run.  If you have never been to her site, you simply MUST go there directly. Her recipes are utterly mouth-watering and her posts are a delight!

I opted to make a Turkey and Bean Chili to share with her readers to ease the fall season in. Yummy, yummy, yummy! Head on over and check it out.

Thanks so much Jenna! xoxo

Miến Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Glass Noodle Soup)

Miến Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Glass Noodle Soup)

 

Chicken Noodle Soup…..what could be more comforting?

Cultures all around the world have their own spin on this soul warming dish. For the Vietnamese, we have at least two versions— Phở Gà and Miến Gà.

Phở Gà is the lighter alternative to the traditional beef Phở and follows a similar cooking method. Due to the slow simmering process of the broth and spices, it takes me a couple of hours to complete a quality Phở Gà. Miến Gà offers a lighter broth and is served with glass noodles (Miến). White on Rice Couple gives a great overview of Miến.

 


Miến Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Glass Noodle Soup)

 

Both soups are delicious–especially on cold days. However, I find myself making Miến Gà more often. My version of Miến Gà can be done in a quick 20 minutes. In addition, you can tailor the ingredient amounts to make anywhere from 1 to 8+ bowls. Whereas with Phở Gà, you need a couple hours (at least) and are committed to a huge pot of it!

 


Miến Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Glass Noodle Soup)
The key to my Miến Gà is homemade chicken stock—something I almost always have on hand.  That combined with a splash of what I call “Vietnamese Liquid Gold” and you will have a wonderful and clean broth for your Miến Gà.

Wondering what Vietnamese Liquid Gold is? Nước Mắm (fish sauce), OF COURSE! :)

 


Miến Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Glass Noodle Soup)

 

Serve your Miến Gà with fresh herbs (cilantro, Thai Basil), a few slices of red chilies, and a squeeze of lime. The herbs, spice, and the tiny bit of citrus perfectly rounds out the flavors. This type of balance is the quintessential foundation in Vietnamese cuisine.

Miến Gà— now that is comfort food :)

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Miến Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Glass Noodle Soup)
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1.5 Quarts Homemade Chicken Stock
2 Tablespoons Nước Mắm (fish sauce)
1 Inch Fresh Ginger, peeled
1 Teaspoon Black Peppercorns
1 Boneless Chicken Breast
4 Ounces Dried Miến (glass noodles)
Hot Water
Garnish: Chopped Scallions, Chopped Cilantro, Thai Basil, Slices of Red Chilies, Lime Wedges

Fill a large bowl with hot water and add Miến. Soak Miến for at least 15 minutes until they have softened.

In a medium size pot, add chicken stock, Nước Mắm, peppercorns and ginger. Bring to a simmer and add chicken breast. Continue poaching chicken breast until it is fully cooked, about 8 minutes–depending on size. Remove the chicken breast. Once it’s cooled slightly, slice or shred the meat.

Turning back to the the broth, skim off any impurities that may have formed. Taste and adjust the seasonings—adding more pepper or a dash of Nước Mắm as needed. Keep the broth at a low simmer to ensure it stays hot.

Drain the Miến and add to bowls. Sprinkle with scallions, cilantro, and arrange chicken slices on top. Ladle hot broth over and noodles. Garnish with additional scallions, chilies, basil, and lime.

Note: It’s important that the broth remain piping hot when it’s poured over the noodles. The heat will finish cooking the Miến.


**This is my submission to Delicious Vietnam, a monthly blogging event celebrating Vietnamese cuisine which was started by Anh of A Food Lover’s Journey and Hong & Kim of  Ravenous Couple. To participate,  please send entries to theculinarychronicles@gmail.com by March 13th! For more information, please visit Delicious Vietnam**

 

 


Corn Chowder and a Photo Quandry

In the age of Digital Cameras, photography novices (and I mean ME!) rely on taking hundreds of shots in hopes of getting 1 or 2 photos we like. It’s so easy to snap a photo, take a quick peak, delete, re-shoot….repeat.

Sure, I play around with aperture settings, ISO, composition, blah-blah-blah. But most of it’s trial and error. This especially occurs when I shoot food photos. I often torture loved ones by making them wait until I’ve snapped the thousandth photo before they can dig into their plates. It’s a sad thing.

So I decided to challenge myself the other day……. take only ONE shot of a dish. One quick click without any do overs.

The subject of the photo—a Corn Chowder to take the chill off the cold days we’ve been having.

Sadly, it definitely wasn’t a great photo.  But alas, I had to stick to my guns—- though I had a quandary on my hands. Even though the photo was BLEH the Corn Chowder turned out so darn tasty and tummy warming. If I scrapped the photo, I would have nothing to show you Friends.

Alas….here it is….

 

Corn Chowder

 

Meh……

Not my best work but I’m a work in progress. And although I’m glad to have challenged myself, next time I will continue to click away. Let’s face it….that’s why I bought a digital camera in the first place :)

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Corn Chowder
Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Cups Russett Potatoes, diced
1 Cup Corn Kernels
½ Cup Carrots, finely diced
½ Cup Celery, finely diced
½ Cup White Onion, finely diced
2 Whole Garlic Cloves, finely diced
3 Strips Bacon, finely diced
2 Dried Bay Leaves
1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme Leaves
1 Quart Low Sodium Chicken Broth
3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a heavy bottom pot, cook the bacon slowly until crisp and the fat has rendered out—about 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate covered with a paper towel.

In the same pot with the bacon grease, add carrots, celery, and onions and cook until they are translucent. Add the garlic, thyme, potatoes and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add chicken broth and bay leaves. Bring liquid to a boil and then cover and lower heat to a steady simmer.

Continue to simmer until the potatoes become tender—about 15-20 minutes. Once this has been achieved, use a wooden spoon to smash some of the potatoes against the sides of the pot to release some of the starch into the liquid. Stir in the corn and cream and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and discard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle the tops with the crisped bacon.