Coconut Chicken Curry Recipe (Vietnamese Chicken Curry)

Coconut Chicken Curry Recipe (Vietnamese Chicken Curry) Recipe

Coconut chicken curry is a dish made in both Vietnamese and Indian cuisines, with minor variations. This dish represents the Vietnamese version. The chicken is cooked in coconut milk, spices and a blend of nuts to create a creamy, rich mouth feel. I added galangal, lemongrass, turmeric powder, and kaffir lime leaves. Some people use other spices and add pineapple and various vegetables, but I wanted to keep it simple so the only other addition was potatoes.

If you're tempted by this dish but are bothered by the calories you could substitute evaporated milk for the coconut milk. It won't be as creamy, but the flavor will still be there.


Yields: 6 servings

1-½ pounds chicken (see tips), boneless and skinless
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons papaya paste (see tips)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander
2-½ teaspoons red chili powder, to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, boiled, skinned and cut into quarters
3 shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon grated palm sugar
5 cloves garlic
1 (2-inch) chunk galangal (or ginger)
1 small kaffir lime leaf (optional), torn in half
2 teaspoons lemongrass purée (see tips)
2 fresh curry leaves, torn in half
2 (5.6-ounce) cans unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons cashew nuts, roasted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons almonds, blanched, skinned and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped


One day ahead (if marinating overnight).

Making nut paste: In a blender or mortar and pestle, grind the cashew nuts and almonds into a fine powder.

For the galangal garlic paste: Clean the chunk of galangal and remove any dirt. Peel the galangal root with the edge of a spoon, then finely chop the root. Place the chopped galangal and 3 cloves of garlic in a blender (or a mortar and pestle), adding about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Set aside.

Marinating the chicken:

Cut the chicken into 1-½" pieces. Wash and pat them dry using paper towels.

Season with kosher salt, ground coriander, 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and black pepper. Add 1 teaspoon galangal garlic paste, papaya paste, ½ cup of yogurt and baking powder. Toss well. Place the chicken in a large bowl or a sealable zip-top bag. Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of oil. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or preferrably overnight.

How to make coconut chicken curry:

The next day, remove the chicken from the marinating liquid and pat the meat dry one more time using paper towels.

In a wok, heat the oil. Add the shallots and cook on heat high until slightly golden. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until soft and tender, about 6 minutes. Transfer the caramelized shallots to a bowl. Set aside.

In the same wok, add the rest of the garlic. Cook until slightly golden. Place the chicken pieces and sear the meat until golden. Quickly transfer the chicken pieces to a platter. At this point the chicken isn't cooked completely; it will finish cooking in the coconut gravy.

In the wok, add more oil (if necessary). Add the curry leaves, kaffir lime, the remaining red chili powder, lemongrass, turmeric powder, the rest of the galangal garlic paste, nut paste and yogurt. Mix the thick paste for less than a minute. Add the chicken, shallots, palm sugar, cilantro, potatoes and 1 can of coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low. Scrape the caramelized bits from the bottom of the wok using a wooden spoon. Reduce (uncovered) the liquid by cooking for about 10 minutes. Add the second can of coconut milk. Adjust seasoning of the gravy (if necessary) with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil one last time. Turn off the heat. Cover and let sit until you're ready to serve. Remove and discard the curry leaves and kaffir lime leaves (if possible).

I paired the yellow chicken curry with jasmine rice on the side.

Bon appétit!


For a vegetarian version, check out my curry pot pies.

I like mixing 1 part chicken breast with 1 part dark meat (chicken thighs). I find the result to be more moist, as dark meat is more flavorful and has more fat than white meat.

Papaya and baking powder are both great meat tenderizers. This was Baji, Lulu's late grandma's secret for tender and moist meat. Peel a green papaya. Grind the cubed papaya with seeds in a mini food processor, place about 2 teaspoons of papaya paste per slot in an ice-cube tray and freeze them. Transfer the ice-cubes 3 by 3 into sealable plastic bags and place back in the freezer. I think it's the best way to keep the same flavor without getting freezer burn. I store them exactly as I would extra pesto.

For the lemongrass purée: Wash a stalk of lemongrass. Remove all the white powder from the leaves. Cut the stalk in half. Crush the younger part with the back of a chef's knife and set it aside (excellent for making broth). Cut the remaining stalk into extremely thin slices using a chef's knife. In a mortar and pestle, grind the thin slices of lemongrass, then transfer and mix everything using a mini food processor. It should turn into a fine moist powder. Set aside.

All the ingredients listed above can be found in any Asian stores.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on May 3, 2010.


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