Cooking Diary – Log 6 – 23.05.2012
How are you doing these days? I haven’t write anything in 3 days; I have been busy with finishing my thesis structure to consult it with my commissioner and supervisor. What is the good news around? 🙂
As for me, of course firstly, I started my thesis project, for real this time. I have a clear structure in hand; some interesting data collected, so I can finally start seeing how my final thesis is going. Still a long, long summer completing it, but at least I started quite smoothly now, and hopefully, everything else will be, as well. Yay me! Also, I had a great conversation with my supervisor this morning. He has been very supportive with my striving for excellent thesis outcome. He and I discussed about how I should approach the project and gave out many valuable advices. Then we also had a talk about my early graduation wish, about my bakery and culinary dream, and also about the how the world would end due to Maya calendar, LOL. He could possibly be the coolest teacher in my student life. 🙂
Secondly, I found a solution for my yellow light/under-exposed photos that are always taken in my tiny, a bit dark kitchen. I am in love with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4! With some simple clicks and drags, I finally can add some light to my photo. Look!
See the differences between them. My photos in the past usually a bit dull (because of the yellow lights), lifeless (Every pictures are kind of the same, under the yellow lights, again), and under-exposed (other word, dark, due to the lack of lighting system in my tiny kitchen). And now, they look real, the colors are more vibrant, they look more appealing, well, at least to my eyes. I really like the way that this amazing software can literally add light into my photos. It makes the photo look like I am cooking in an outdoor kitchen. I am lovin’ it!
When reviewing my posts, I realize that I haven’t written much in my cooking diary these past few days. But don’t be sad, dear Diary; I am coming back to you now. So, what in the kitchen today? I cooked Vietnamese Chicken Curry this weekend. It is, yes, another Vietnamese dishes that we love and had been craving for it like weeks.
This dish is not an original dish from our homeland cuisine, as I researched. But almost every country in Asia has its own version of curry and we Vietnamese are no exception. Compared to other version of curry like Indian or Thai, Vietnamese curry is relatively mild, not as spicy, and not as well known. But when it comes to flavor and fragrant explosion in your 5 human senses, we are no less. 🙂
The first curry I ever tasted was made by my dear Grandma. She is the best cook in my stomach, and in my heart. I love you, Grandma! Her curry was so flavorful, I could remember how it taste very clearly in my head, and still drooling whenever I recalled about it. Well, drooling again now. 🙂
So enjoy, my Grandma version’s of Vietnamese Chicken Curry.
Marinating Chicken Mix
- 1kg of whole chicken or chicken thigh
- 3 tbsp. curry powder
(Here is the brand that my Grandma and I use, if you cannot find it, simply follow Ginger and Scotch link here, about how you can make it yourself)
- ½ tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder
- 2 tsp. (preferably natural) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/3 bulb of medium size onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/3 cup fish sauce
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 5 potatoes (300g)
- ½ of 1 big size sweet potatoes (300g)
- 2 Carrots (150g)
- 1 can coconut milk (400ml)
- 1 tbsp. fish sauce
- 2 tsp. salt
- 3 tbsp. sugar
Spices for Soup
- 5 to 10 bay leaves
- 2 anises
- 2 piece of cinnamon stick (about 1 tsp. cinnamon powder)
- 2 sticks of lemongrass
- 2-5 chilies (depends on how hot and spicy you want your curry to be. Mine is rather sweet and mild at 2)
Step 1: Cut the chicken into half a hand size (I cut 1 chicken thigh into 3 parts)
Step 2: Marinate the chicken with all the ingredients listed above in the Marinating Chicken mix.
Stir well to coat all of the chicken pieces.
Then let them sit on the counter for 1 hour, to maximum overnight in the fridge. Some of you might find it weird adding cocoa powder to marinate the chicken. Unsweetened cocoa powder is my secret ingredient when it comes to dishes with chilies. The cocoa will add a complexity to the chili dishes that will be remembered by your audiences. When used sparingly, like I did in this dish, its subtle and deepen flavors will leave them guessing and coming back for more. What could possibly be better than that? Also, if you have natural cocoa powder in hands, it is a wonderful source of acid to tenderize your chicken meat while marinating.
So, fear not, OK? Next step please!
Step 3: While letting the chicken marinating to the final phase, let say, 15 minutes before your chicken is ready to rock and roll, we will go to the vegetable preparation part. Peel your potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Now chop the potatoes and sweet potatoes into big chunks, about one fourth of your hand, approximately 4x4cm. Chop the carrots in smaller size, about 1cm thick slices.
Step 4: Now preheat a pig pot (About 3 liters capacity) with 1 tbsp. of canola oil on medium heat. When the pot and the oil inside is hot enough, fry the potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Flip them around for even frying, just until the outsides are getting transparent and brown just around the edges of the chunks. When they are done, take them out on a clean plate.
The reason for this step is to seal the starch of the potatoes inside, helping them keep their pretty, sharp shapes while stewing, and preventing a mushy mass of floating unidentified objects in your curry.
Step 5: Now get ready for the main singer of tonight show: Missy Chicken. 🙂 In the same pot that you fried your potatoes, add 1 more tbsp. of oil, and sir-fry the chicken pieces until they are cooked a little on the outside.
Step 6: Now pour 1l of water into the pot.
Crush the lemongrass bottom to extract the flavor. Cut them into 7cm long; tie them up real tightly with a ribbon. Mine is a wool string. 🙂
Add the spices listed in the soup spices list above. Stir well.
Cover the pot up with the lid, and let them stew on medium low heat for about 15 minutes. This could take longer depending on the kind of chicken you use for this curry. Mine is store-bought, so the meat is tender and does not require long cooking. But if yours is a free-range kind that are able to run freely inside a happy farm, do cook them longer than 15 minutes, let’s say 30 minutes or so.
Step 7: 15 minutes are up, now add the carrot slices, and close the lid again, wait for another 15 minutes.
Step 8: Add the pre-fried potato and sweet potato chunks into the pot, close the lid an wait, yes I know, another 30 minutes or more until the vegetables are tender.
Step 9: Add the coconut milk into the pot.
Stir well. You can see how the color of the curry soup change. Looking good, Mr. Curry! LOL
Now taste it and adjust the flavor to your own preferences: more savory, add fish sauce. More sweet, add sugar. More spicy, add chili, and some sugar (True! No kidding). 🙂
Step 10: Turn the heat to medium high. Let them come to a boil. Take them off the heat, and scoop the curry out on deep plates, or bowl.
How we Vietnamese eat curry?
That’s an interesting question because unlike Indian curry, we don’t serve ours with cooked rice; we serve curry with bread, Banh Mi – Vietnamese Baguette to be correct. So how could I make curry and not making a batch of Banh Mi beforehand? Here they are, my babes!
If you want to learn how to make Banh Mi, here is my revised recipe, with the crispiest crust and tender crumbs I have ever baked in my oven. If you want to learn more about this mysterious baguette, and how we originally make it in Vietnam, here is a post about it.
So, what will we do now with a yummy dish of Vietnamese chicken curry and slices of freshly baked Banh Mi baguette?
Kindly take a slice of Banh Mi, dip it into the curry. Be generous, and wait until the crumb soaks up all the curry goodie inside it. Now put it in your mouth, with your hand (if you feel comfortable) or with a spoon. Uhhm! Feel that? A flavorful wave of curry just sweep in your tongue buds, follow by the crispiness of the Banh Mi crust. Now scoop a piece of potatoes into your mouth, chew, and enjoy!
That’s how I eat curry normally. But some might love the combination of curry and cooked rice, or egg noodles. So you might want to try that, if you are interested.
Anyway, have a very nice and productive Wednesday,