One of my all-time favourite Vietnamese dishes is chicken curry with sweet potato. My mum makes this dish using a whole chicken which is first marinated in a special mixture of Vietnamese curry powder and other seasoning, and then slowly simmered on the stove with an array of aromatics until the chicken is tender and almost falls from the bone. Towards the end, she adds potatoes and/or sweet potatoes which has been deep-fried so that it keeps its shape in the curry, and the whole dish is served with loaves of crusty baguette (preferably from a Vietnamese bakery) to soak up the lovely curry sauce. The bread is undoubtedly French-inspired as this is one of the few Vietnamese meals which is not served with rice or noodles.
I dream constantly of my mum’s curry and, over the years, I have developed my own recipe which at least satisfies my taste buds but still falls short of my mum’s version. It is a dish which requires a bit of planning and preparation, so definitely not something I would attempt during the working week.
I was flicking through Bill Granger’s new book, Bill’s Everyday Asian, at the bookstore the other day and the first recipe which caught my eye was his Chicken Curry Soup. A quick read through the recipe and a look at the photos over the page confirmed that it was his take on this Vietnamese classic. I was sold on this one recipe. In fact, my next stop was the supermarket across the street to buy the necessary ingredients.
I tried this recipe the following evening, and the fact that this soup took about 30 minutes to make was fairly incredible for something which tasted so … authentic. I didn’t even have homemade chicken stock to hand – I simply used a chicken stock cube. I had some water spinach leftover from another dish so I used that instead of bok choy. And anyway, I remembered that my mum sometimes added water spinach to her curry; for any leftover curry the next day, she would thin it with some coconut milk, to which she would add cooked vermicelli noodles and some water spinach, thus transforming the leftover curry into a delicious and satisfying noodle soup.
Bill Granger’s version is super-quick and super-tasty. Of course, it’s not as special as the traditional version, but it’s wonderful for during the week when time is scarce. I wonder what my mum would think of this recipe?
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
- 1 small red onion, thickly sliced
- 1 lemongrass stalk, white part cut into short lengths
- 1½ tablespoons curry powder
- 750 ml chicken stock
- 750 ml boiling water
- 400 ml tin coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 small chicken breast fillets (or 1 large chicken breast fillet)
- 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
- small handful of water spinach, cut into short lengths
- 250 g vermicelli noodles
- red chillies (optional)
- coriander, finely chopped
- limes, cut into wedges
- In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and cook the garlic, onion and lemongrass until fragrant. Add the curry powder and mix through.
- Add the chicken stock, boiling water, coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar and sea salt. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.
- Add the sweet potatoes and cook for about 10 minutes until the sweet potato is soft.
- Next add the chicken breast fillet(s) and poach for about 8 to 10 minutes until it is cooked (cook for a bit longer if you are using large chicken breast fillets).
- Meanwhile, cook the vermicelli noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water.
- Remove the chicken from the soup and slice thickly.
- Add the water spinach to the soup and cook for a few minutes until it just begins to soften.
- Place the noodles into large soup bowls with some slices of chicken, and ladle the soup over the noodles. Garnish with red chillies and chopped coriander. Serve with a squeeze of lime juice.
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If you have made this dish, I would love to hear how it turned out! Please leave a comment below and share your photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using #eatlittlebird