“Why would you want Vietnamese food so soon?” –Mom
Mom and Dad were both baffled–I had just gotten back from Vietnam, wouldn’t I be craving literally anything else but Vietnamese food? It’s true, I needed a break from all the pho and banh mi, but there was one dish that try as I might, I couldn’t find. I ate some pretty bomb food, hello fried tofu with scallion sauce dipped in wonderful Maggi sauce, but I couldn’t find one of my favorite dishes. Less hyped than its northern or western cousin, but definitely no less delicious–the delectable Vietnamese curry.
A couple of things differentiate the dish. First, it’s soupy and thin, thinner than any of the more familiar curries. Secondly, it’s meant to be eaten with either vermicelli noodles OR a French baguette (banh mi bread, if you have the option). Dipping the baguette into the curry is uniquely Vietnamese and is one of the most unequivocal evidence of French influence over Vietnamese cuisine.
Going the vermicelli route means eating it as a noodle soup dish, similar to pho. But if you prefer the baguette, then the curry becomes a dipping sauce for the bread. I spilt the banh mi bread and take fewer noodles so I can have the best of both worlds. Both carbs were plentiful on our table when Vietnamese curry was concerned.
It’s the perfect cozy winter dish, each bite filling you up with warmth and happiness. And so upon my return to New York, on a blustery cold day with snow in the forecast, I called up Mom and asked how to make the dish—finally satisfying a long craving. The hunt ended right where it started: home.
Prep: 30 mins | Cook: 2 hours and 30 mins
INGREDIENTS (FOR 4)
|whole turkey* bones||1 potato|
|1 lb turkey** meat||4 loose carrots|
|1 medium yellow onion||1 lime leaf***|
|1 slice ginger||juice of 1 lime|
|2 tbsp oil||1 can coconut milk|
|1 stalk lemongrass||1 tbsp fish sauce|
|3 tbsp curry powder||salt to taste|
|1 sweet potato|
+ scallion, cilantro, and lime for serving
* You can substitute turkey with chicken as long as it’s bones from a whole chicken
** Again, you can sub in chicken with turkey. I used chicken thigh.
*** optional, but highly recommended
1. If you have an electric stove, turn it on medium. If you have a gas stove, turn it on low. Cut the onion into halves and, along with the ginger, place straight over the heat. You want to get a nice charr on the onion and ginger. This should take no more than 10 minutes, but monitor closely.
2. As you wait for the onion and ginger to char, chop up the turkey (or chicken) into two inch pieces that are about half an inch thick. I deboned a chicken thigh and cut it into two inch pieces, but really any cut will do—if breast is easier then go with breast. It’s flexible.
3. Remove the onion and ginger and set aside if done. If not, continue monitoring. Peel and chop sweet potato and potato into two inch pieces. Set aside.
4. At his point your onion and ginger should be charred. Set aside.
5. Cut lemongrass stalk into fourths.
Ok, disclaimer, I used my Instant Pot to make this, but it can easily be done on the stove as well, it might just take a bit longer.
1. Set your Instant Pot to sauté. Add oil and once it starts to shimmer, add the turkey (or chicken) bones. Toss in the charred onion, ginger, and lemongrass. Stir so that it doesn’t burn. After about 5 minutes, add enough water so the bones are covered but ensuring it doesn’t reach the max fill line. For me this was about six cups. Add salt to taste, you want it to be salty enough that there’s flavor but not so salty that it taste like the ocean–about 1 tbsp.
2. Set Instant pot to high pressure for 45 minutes. If you’re using the stove, follow the steps above in a pot and bring to a boil then turn it down to a simmer for an hour.
3. Let the Instant pot natural release for at least 15 minutes and then quick release. Give the broth a good stir. Add coconut milk (ensuring that the max fill line is not exceeded), curry powder, turkey (or chicken) meat, sweet potato, potato, carrots, lime juice, and fish sauce. Give the lime leaf a few rips to release the aroma and toss into broth. Set the Instant pot back on high pressure and cook for another 40 minutes. If you’re using the stove, you can follow the steps above and bring back to a boil. Then let it simmer for another hour to hour and half, stirring to ensure nothing burns.
4. Natural release for 20 minutes and then do a quick release.
Chop up a handful of scallion and cilantro. Ladle a generous amount of curry into your bowl and add the fresh toppings. Finish off the curry with a squeeze of lime, some Sriracha, and more fish sauce. And as noted above, you can add vermicelli noodles or dip a baguette into the curry–or go crazy and do both, you deserve it.
Have leftovers? It’s even better the next day.