A number of years back at the Savour food festival in Auckland, I heard Tony Tan speak and tried a couple of delicious dishes he had made for the audience. One was Cari Ga, a Vietnamese chicken curry with a coconut milk base – full of warming spices. I do have the recipe that Tony provided, but on a whim the other I decided to make a chicken curry a la Tony Tan just going by instinct. It tuned out mighty good, so here’s what I did:
In a large bowl, mix 2/3 can coconut milk, 1 inch length galangal, 3 cloves garlic, 2 stalks lemongrass, all crushed in a mortar and 8 whole star anise pods. Pour the marinade into a large airtight container and add 1 kg free range chicken pieces, stirring them round with your hand to cover them in the liquid. Let marinate in the fridge overnight or for at least 6 hours. When you’re ready to cook the curry, cut 2 carrots and 2 large potatoes into cubes and boil until almost cooked; set aside. In a large pot, heat some peanut or rice bran oil and sautee one large onion, sliced and 2 cloves garlic, chopped. Add 1tsp crushed or dried red chilli and 2-3 tsp curry powder. Tony Tan recommends the Vianco brand for Vietnamese curries, but I’ve never been able to find it in NZ, so I’ve used a Malaysian-style curry powder from Tai Ping (turmeric, galangal, coriander seed, anise seed, cinnamon). Set aside the sauteed onions. Into some more hot oil, add the chicken pieces, plucked from the marinade – do it in batches to allow each chicken piece to brown well. Then when all the chicken is browned, add back to the pot all the chicken, the onion mix, the potato and carrot, 5 mushrooms, cut into quarters, and the coconut marinade. Add a little more powdered turmeric to give the curry more colour. You want the liquid to come up just about over the chicken, so add some good chicken stock if you need to, or just a little water if you don’t have stock. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer. Add about 3 Tbsp grated palm sugar and 3 Tbsp fish sauce. Let simmer for about 45 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Towards the end of cooking, add juice of 2 limes. Garnish the bowls of curry with fresh chopped coriander and spring onion and finely sliced red chilli, and serve with steamed jasmine rice or a crusty baguette.