Gỏi Cuốn Tôm {Shrimp Spring Rolls}

Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Rolls

Dear Mother Nature,

You know that I adore Spring and Summer. In fact, I’m a Sun Baby through and through.

It may be a result of those early years where I froze in the Minnesota snow and now I’m at my best when I can feel the warmth of the sun on my face and can wear my flipflops 365.

Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Rolls

But with that said, I think you’re playing a cruel practical joke on me this late in the game.

90+ degree weather EVERY day this week?!?!

And that’s with mi casa sitting on the coast. Where or WHERE did you send my beloved Pacific Ocean breeze?

My poor puggle and I are melting.


And it’s already September.

Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls.

Lately, all I want are Spring Rolls and popsicles….and slurpees.

Gỏi Cuốn, as you know, are Vietnamese spring rolls….sometimes noted as “summer rolls”.

They’re light, filled with veggies and low maintenance.

Thankfully, because I can barely muster enough energy to boil water to cook the vermicelli noodles and poach the shrimp. And lucky for both of us, I don’t like poached pork belly which is commonly used in Vietnamese spring rolls. It gives me one less thing to worry about.

Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Rolls

Now, if my face wasn’t melting off my head (is that T.M.I.?), I’d marinate the shrimp in a little garlic, fish sauce and then grill them. It really does add that extra oompf of flavor but trust me, poaching them are just as delish.

Oh–and Mother Nature, if you’re fixing up some spring rolls, feel free to add in other herbs and veggies you may have on hand….bell peppers, bean sprouts, Thai basil….

And thin slices of poached pork belly if it tickles your fancy.

Vietnamese Shrimp Spring RollsAnd once you’re done making your rolls, could you find it in your heart to send back our “normal” weather?

We would love you even more….like, times infinity.

xoxo <3 ,



Gỏi Cuốn Tôm {Shrimp Spring Rolls}
Serves approximately 4


2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup boiling water
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup julienned carrots
1 cup julienned daikon radish
8 sheets round bánh tráng (dried rice paper sheets)
lettuce leaves
2 cups cooked vermicelli noodles
1 small Persian cucumber, sliced thinly lengthwise
fresh mint leaves
fresh cilantro leaves
fresh Thai basil, optional
fresh Vietnamese coriander, optional
1 dozen poached shrimp, sliced in half lengthwise
8 thin scallions or Chinese chives

Prepare the đồ chua (pickled vegetables). In a medium sized bowl, dissolve the sugar and salt with the boiling water. Add the vinegar and allow the liquid to cool to room temperature. Add the carrots and daikon and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. *This can keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 2-3 weeks and are a must in Vietnamese sandwiches (bánh mì).

Dip one rice paper sheet in warm water and place on a flat surface. The rice paper will slowly become pliable. Lay one piece of lettuce in the middle of the rice sheet and top with vermicelli noodles, cucumber slices, mint leaves, cilantro leaves, Thai basil, Vietnamese coriander and some of the refrigerated đồ chua. Lay 3-4 shrimp slices, cut side up, in one line above the layer of vegetables.

Tightly roll the bottom of the rice paper over the mound. Fold the right side of the roll in and lay one scallion/chive above the roll. Fold the left side in and continue rolling the rice paper up until you’ve created a secured roll. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Serve at room temperature with hoisin peanut sauce or other dipping sauce of your choice.


Xôi Gà Chiên Nước Mắm for Tết – {Vietnamese Style Fried Chicken with Sticky Rice}

Xôi Gà Chiên Nước Mắm {Vietnamese-Style Fried Chicken with Sticky Rice}

Well gang…in true Nam form, I’ve waited to the last minute to finish scrubbing down my house. And I need to get my act together because tomorrow is the beginning of Tết – the Lunar New Year!

Will I ever learn??

Doubt it.….

Xôi Gà Chiên Nước Mắm {Vietnamese-Style Fried Chicken with Sticky Rice}
But hey — I get points for having the majority of mi casa scrubbed down, lì xì (lucky money in red envelopes) all ready, ancestral altar is up and Bella got a bath. It’ll be a mad rush over the next few hours but it’s Tết and it needs to be done to optimize my luck for the year. I don’t like to gamble with bad ju-ju…especially since the Year of the Sheep (or Ram) is predicted to be a good one for me.


Xôi Gà Chiên Nước Mắm {Vietnamese-Style Fried Chicken with Sticky Rice}
It’s going to be a crazy time with the family and I’ll be headed up to Orange County in a day to begin the shenanigans with them. Lots of food, lots of booze, loud talking (we’re not arguing–we just speak HELLA loud), lots of kids, lots of games and if all goes well, a lot of luck and prosperity for my o’hana.

Xôi Gà Chiên Nước Mắm {Vietnamese-Style Fried Chicken with Sticky Rice}
To celebrate Tết, I wanted to share my Xôi Gà Chiên Nước Mắm which is sticky rice served with Vietnamese style fried chicken (aka…marinaded in fish sauce). It’s not a traditional Tết dish but it’s so darn good! Fried chicken swathed in a sticky, sweet, salty and spicy sauce –everything that speaks to the Vietnamese palette. Couple it with sticky glutinous rice and it’s HEAVEN!

So to you my dear friends, Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!! Wishing you all an extremely fulfilling, prosperous, joy filled, healthy and delicious Year of the Sheep!!!


Xôi Gà Chiên Nước Mắm {Vietnamese-Style Fried Chicken with Sticky Rice}
Serves 5-6


½ cup fish sauce (I use Việt Hương Three Crabs or Red Boat)
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup warm water
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
½ tablespoon minced ginger
3 – 4 Thai chilies, minced (more if you prefer)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ teaspoon black pepper
2½ – 3 pounds chicken, bone-in and skin-on (I prefer drumsticks and thighs)
2 cups sweet glutinous rice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
peanut oil (you can substitute with vegetable oil if need be)
1 cup rice flour
½ cup all purpose flour
garnish: toasted sesame seeds, minced chilies, chopped scallions and chopped cilantro

In a bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, sugar, water, shallots, garlic, ginger, chilies and black pepper. Pour the marinade into large gallon Ziploc bags- you may need more than one depending on the size of the chicken. Rinse the chicken under cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the chicken inside the Ziploc bags. Massage the chicken in the marinade and try to get most of the air out of the bag before sealing it. Put the bag(s) of chicken in a large bowl in case it leaks and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.

While the chicken marinates, prepare the sticky rice. Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Fill a large bowl with cool water, add the rice and soak it for about 2-3 hours. Drain the water and place the soaked rice in a rice cooker. Fill the cook with about 2/3 inch of water. Stir in the salt and cook according to the settings of your rice cooker. Alternatively, you can use a bamboo steamer and follow my directions posted here

An hour before you start cooking the chicken, pull it from the refrigerator to take the chill off of it. Pour the marinade into a small sauce pan and set aside. Fill a large, heavy bottom pot with about 2-3 inches of the oil. Heat the oil to 350 degrees F.

Take the chicken and use paper towels to blot off the excess moisture. In a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour and all-purpose flour.

After the oil comes to temperature take a few pieces of chicken at a time and roll it into the flour mixture. Shake off any excess flour and carefully place the pieces into the oil –being careful to not overcrowd the pot. Depending on the size of the chicken, allow the pieces to fry for 10-20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Once done, allow the chicken to drain on a wire rack. Continue dredging and frying until all the chicken has been cooked.

While the chicken is frying, cook the marinade over medium-low heat until it reduces by half. Toss the fried chicken into the reduced marinade. Plate with a portion of sticky rice and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, minced chilies, chopped scallions and chopped cilantro. Serve warm.


Cá Nướng {Vietnamese Roasted Fish}

Cá Nướng {Vietnamese Roasted Fish}

Cá Nướng is a really common Vietnamese dish of roasted fish. And although it’s most often made with catfish because of its firm and somewhat fatty flesh, you can use any fish that can hold up to high heat while still staying moist.

When given the choice, I recommend roasting a whole fish. Not only does it help retain moisture but you’ll almost always get a better flavor when you cook your proteins bone-in.

Cá Nướng {Vietnamese Roasted Fish}

This is when it’s so nifty to have a trusted fishmonger — or in my case, an Asian grocery store, nearby. The latter almost always has live catfish on hand (so you’ll know it’s super fresh) and both options can do the dirty work for you –which I totally appreciate as I hate cleaning fish.

And don’t be surprised to see your once silver/black catfish “turn” white when it comes back cleaned for you. Many fishmongers will scrub the catfish skin to remove the dark outer layer. Although it’s completely edible, the darker skin does make your fish taste a tad “fishier” so the extra scrub down is a good thing.

Cá Nướng {Vietnamese Roasted Fish}

I’ve adopted my eldest seester’s method of preparing Cá Nướng which is not only easy to do but is rather simple when seasoning the fish. A lot of folks will use a variety of aromatics and spices to marinate it. But since you’ll typically dunk the roasted fish into a nước chấm (dipping sauce), you can stick with a minimal preparation before cooking the fish as the sauce will provide the extra flavor punch.

Cá Nướng {Vietnamese Roasted Fish}

Cá Nướng can be served over rice, with vermicelli noodles, inside a bánh mì (sandwich) or how we typically like it —cuốn bánh tráng (wrapped in rice paper).

The rolls are filled with tons of fresh herbs and veggies that when combined with the roasted fish, is absolutely amazing. They have tons of different textures, knock-out flavor and are deliciously light on the tummy.

Cá Nướng {Vietnamese Roasted Fish}

Serving your Cá Nướng as spring rolls is also a fantastic way to entertain family-style and would be a prefect al fresco dining option during the upcoming warm months. Your guests will love making their own rolls and adding their favorite items inside.

And don’t let the ingredients list and recipe fool you. It may seem like a lot of different components but it’s not difficult at all. You can also prepare many of the components in advance to cut down on prep time.

Easy and delish……Total Nguyen-Win!



Cá Nướng {Vietnamese Roasted Fish}


¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup chopped scallions
1 whole catfish (2-3 pounds), cleaned/scaled with head removed
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 scallions stalks
½ cup fried shallots
¼ cup roughly chopped peanuts
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves

For Nước Chấm dipping sauce:
¼ cup nước mắm (fish sauce)
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup  fresh lime juice,
2 tablespoons warm  water,
1 finely minced garlic clove
1 teaspoon chili paste, more to taste

Serve with:
1 package bánh tráng (dried rice paper sheets)
lettuce leaves
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup đồ chua (pickled carrots and daikon slices)
fresh mint leaves
fresh Vietnamese cilantro leaves
fresh Thai basil leaves
whole Thai chiles
lime wedges

Prepare scallion oil (hành mơ):  In a sauté pan, slowly heat the vegetable oil over low. Add the chopped scallions. Cook the scallions until they are wilted but still bright green–approximately 2-3 minutes. Pull from heat and allow the scallion oil to cool until room temperature.

Rinse the fish with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Coat the fish with the scallion oil and season the exterior and interior with the garlic powder, black pepper and kosher salt. Stuff the fish cavity with the scallion stalks and prop it upwards on a baking tray. Allow the fish to marinate for 20 minutes.

While the fish marinates, prepare the nước chấm.  Whisk all the items together in a small bowl. Add chili paste to taste. Set aside.

Roast the fish in an oven heated to 400 degrees F for approximately 25-30 minutes or until the flesh is opaque and cooked through. Turn on the broiler of your oven and broil the fish for about 60-90 seconds to slightly crisp & brown the skin. Remove the fish from the oven and transfer to a platter. Top the fish with the fried shallots, chopped peanuts and cilantro leaves.

To serve the fish as a spring roll (bánh tráng cuốn), dip one rice paper sheet in warm water and place on a plate/flat surface. The rice paper will slowly become pliable. Lay one piece of lettuce in the middle of the sheet and top with some of the fresh herbs, đồ chua, cucumber slices and pieces of the fish. Spoon some of the peanuts and fried shallots on top. Tightly roll the bottom of the rice paper over the mound and then fold the sides in. Continue rolling the rice paper up until you’ve created a secured roll.

Serve the rolls and fish with the nước chấm. Ăn ngon!


Cá Kho Tộ {Vietnamese Clay Pot Braised Catfish}

Cá Kho Tộ {Vietnamese Clay Pot Braised Catfish}

Growing up, our daily family dinners typically consisted of rice (cơm) served with a stir-fried dish (món xào), a soup dish (món canh), and sometimes a braised dish (món kho). Pretty standard menu for a Vietnamese meal.

Truthfully, I took it for granted back then as I preferred to have lasagna, McDonald’s or even Dairy Queen for dinner. Hey- I was a little kid growing up in Minnesota after all.

But as I get older, those are the dishes I crave the most–even if I don’t make them too often. One of those nostalgic dishes is Cá Kho – braised fish. There’s a ton of variations to Cá Kho and it can change depending on the household. I like it two ways–the first in a very salty broth that you eat with vermicelli noodles or Cá Kho Tộ where the fish is braised in a salty sweet sauce.

Cá Kho Tộ {Vietnamese Clay Pot Braised Catfish}

Cá Kho Tộ is traditionally made with catfish and uses a combination of nước màu (caramel sauce), tons of fish sauce, shallots and coconut juice. Although it’s meant to be cooked in a claypot (tộ), you can use any heavy bottom pot that you have on hand.

We use Coco Rico (coconut soda) in a lot of our kho dishes in lieu of coconut juice but if you can’t find it at your local ethnic grocery store, the latter should work out fine. You can also substitute the catfish for salmon, seabass or any fatty fish that can hold up to braising.

Cá Kho Tộ {Vietnamese Clay Pot Braised Catfish}

Once done, the fish is really tender and I love to spoon the thick, salty/sweet sauce over rice. So good! But just a suggestion, be sure to turn on your kitchen fan while you’re cooking up cá kho because the aroma can be a bit strong. :)

Ăn Ngon, Folks!


Cá Kho Tộ {Vietnamese Clay Pot Braised Catfish}
Serves 4


2 pounds catfish steaks, washed and patted dried
1 tablespoon palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1/4 cup diced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped scallions, divided
3 tablespoons fish sauce, more to taste
2 tablespoons nước màu, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 ounces Coco Rico soda
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, cut into matchsticks
3-4 red Thai chiles, more to taste
fresh cilantro leaves

Liberally sprinkle salt over the catfish steaks. Rub the salt all over the fish and rinse off with cool water. Pat the fish dry with paper towels. The salt “exfoliate” is a great way to clean fish and other meats.

Place the washed fish into a large bowl. Add in the palm sugar, shallots, garlic, all but 1 tablespoon of scallions, fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of nước màu and black pepper. Coat the fish well in the marinade and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the fish and allow to marinate for 45 minutes to an hour.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large clay pot or other heavy bottom pot. Place the catfish steaks in a single layer and sear 1 minute on each side. Pour all the marinade over the fish, the remaining nước màu and the Coco Rico soda. Add the ginger, chiles and allow the liquids to come to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered for about 30 minutes. Gently flip the catfish steaks halfway through the cooking time.

Once the fish has cooked through and the sauce has reduced and thickened, taste and add more fish sauce as needed. Sprinkle the remaining scallions, additional chiles (to taste), and cilantro leaves on top. Serve warm with rice.

Nước Màu {Vietnamese Caramel Sauce}

Nước Màu {Vietnamese Caramel Sauce}


Nước Màu is a “caramel sauce” commonly used in Vietnamese dishes. It offers a sweet, bitter balance to salty, savory ingredients and is often used in braised dishes with pork, shrimp and fish.

You can find a prepackaged version of nước màu dừa in the condiment/sauces section of your local Asian grocery store but why buy it when it’s so easy to whip up at home? Plus, it’s cheaper to make and you know exactly what’s in it. No funky mystery items that can often pop up in pre-bottled stuff.

Nước Màu is typically quite dark in color but I prefer to make my version a bit lighter than others as I find it can be a bit too bitter for my taste. But you can cook down the sugar to whichever consistency you prefer.

Once made, you can jar up the nước màu and store until you get a hankering for some down home Vietnamese dishes.


Nước Màu


1 cup sugar
3/4 cup boil water

Place the sugar in a heavy bottom sauce pan and cook over medium heat. Once the sugar begins to melt, swirl the pan around as it begins to bubble. Continue cooking the sugar until it reaches a dark brown hue.

Carefully pour in the boiling water. The melted sugar will violently bubble and hiss at this point so take caution. Stir the liquids and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes as it continues to thicken. Pour the nước màu into a jar and allow to cool to room temperature. The nước màu can be kept for several months, unrefrigerated.



Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage}

Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage}

It seems almost silly that I’m writing a post on Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage} because it’s incredibly easy and so common. But if you grew up in a Vietnamese family like I did, then you can appreciate what a staple this humble dish is.

Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage}

It starts with xôi –sticky, glutinous sweet rice (gạo nếp) that is best soaked before you cook it. I use a bamboo steamer to cook the rice but if you’ve got a nifty electric rice cooker that has the right settings, you can also go with that method. Unfortunately my rice cooker isn’t that snazzy and often burns my xôi, so I opt for the old school method.

Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage}

The sticky and slighty chewy xôi then gets topped with slices of lạp xưởng, which are Chinese sausages. They’re a smoked sausage typically made from pork or chicken and has a salty and slightly sweet flavor profile. Our mom used to pan-fry the lạp xưởng or even throw it in the rice cooker while the xôi cooked. But these days I’ve adopted my eldest seester’s method – broiling them in the toaster oven. They make the lạp xưởng wonderfully crisp and makes for easy clean up.

You can also find Xôi Lạp Xưởng topped with thịt chà bông/ruốc (a dried and shredded pork), eggs, small dried shrimp or chicken. But we grew up eating it pretty simple and I like to have it with a small side of Maggi Seasoning Sauce and fresh chiles.

Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage}

Xôi Lạp Xưởng can be eaten warm or at room temperature– which is why I think it always had a presence in our home for quick meals, road trips, picnics and was the perfect way to feed a crowd on a budget.

I still enjoy Xôi Lạp Xưởng to this day but it will always be a taste of my childhood…..and that’s a delicious thing.

Ăn Ngon, Friends!


Xôi Lạp Xưởng (Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage)
Serves 4-6


2 cups sweet glutinous rice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup chopped scallions
4 lạp xưởng links (Chinese sausage)
1 cup fried shallots
Maggi Seasoning Sauce or soy sauce
fresh chiles or sambal paste

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Fill a large bowl with cool water, add the rice and soak it overnight. Once the rice has been properly soaked, drain the rice and shake off any excess water. With a clean kitchen towel, gently pat the rice dry, sprinkle in the salt and mix until combined.

Line the bottom of your steamer with a sheet of cheesecloth and then spread the rice mixture evenly on top of the cloth. Depending on how large your stacked steamer is, you may need to add a second layer. Steam, covered, for about 20-25 minutes or until rice is fully cooked. *Alternatively, you can use an electric rice cooker if it has the correct settings.

While the rice is steaming, place the lạp xưởng links (Chinese sausage) on a foil lined baking sheet. Broil for 3-4 minutes in your oven or in a toaster oven until all sides have been crisped. Cut the lạp xưởng into thin slices.

Prepare the hành mỡ (scallion oil). In a sauté pan, slowly heat the vegetable oil. Add the chopped scallions. Cook the scallions on very low heat until they are wilted but still bright green. Approximately 2-3 minutes. Pull from heat and set aside.

To assemble, place a few scoops of the cooked rice in a bowl or shallow plate. Brush the rice with the hành mỡ (scallion oil) and top with several slices of lạp xưởng. Sprinkle each serving with fried shallots and serve with Maggi seasoning or soy sauce and fresh chiles/sambal paste.


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!


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


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.).