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?