As summer wanes and the autumn leaves turn hues of bright red and orange, we instinctively turn to warm comforting foods like curry. Not a single spice, curries encompass a broad range of spices unique to the geographic locale across many different countries and ethnicities. Aromatics such as galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and chili are pounded and mixed with dried spices, layering complex flavors upon flavors. Typically, curries are composed of a protein, poultry, beef, or seafood along with vegetables in a thick, gravy like sauce. In Vietnam, curry is called ca ri, and the most common preparation is a rich and hearty chicken stew, called ca ri ga. Chunks of potato, carrots, onions are added and the meal is completed with toasted baguette or simply ladled over a steaming bowl of jasmine rice.
However, one variation that we're particularly fond of is ca ri ga pot pie using puff pastry. Take our favorite part of a pot pie (the crust) and add it to intensely fragrant curry. We don't care if you call it fusion, it's just mighty good!
There are many varieties of curries and for a more in depth discussion, read about curries with this excellent article. We prefer using Mae Ploy brand Massaman curry paste for this dish, because it contains a wider array of spices as well as a hint of cinnamon. But feel free to experiment! This brand is great because it comes in a resealable jar and keeps for months in the fridge.
Ca ri ga Vietnamese chicken curry
1 1/2 lbs chicken (cut in 1-1/2 inch pieces, we prefer skin and bone on hind quarters, but use your favorite cuts)
1 medium shallot, minced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk of lemongrass (finely mince about 1 tablespoon) save remainder of white stalk for broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoon Massaman curry paste, divided in half
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 cup coconut milk
3 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cup potatoes, peeled, cut about 1 inch pieces (feel free to mix in sweet potatoes or yams if desired)
1 1/2 cup carrots, peeled, cut on diagonal 1 inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, peeled, cut in wedges
1 green onion, thinly chopped
1 sheet store bought puff pastry
1 tablespoon water
First marinate the cut pieces of chicken with shallots, garlic, minced lemongrass, salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoon of curry. Make sure curry paste coats the chicken evenly. Allow to marinate about 1/2 hour covered in fridge.
In the meantime, prepare the potatoes, carrots, and onion. If you're going to make the pot pie, allow to thaw slightly at room temperature. Place your container on top of puff pastry and cut around the container with a pizza cutter leaving about 1 inch margin. Return the puff pastry back to the freezer until ready for use.
In a large pot on medium heat, add about 1 tablespoon cooking oil and sautée the chicken along with an additional 2 tablespoon of curry paste. When the outside of the chicken is browned, roughly 3-5 minutes, add coconut milk. Stir and meld together for another minute and then add chicken stock and the remaining stalk of lemongrass.
Then add the vegetables according to how quick they cook. We add carrots first, potatoes about 3 minutes later, and finally onions just when it's about to boil. Bring to boil and reduce to low heat and simmer until vegetables are just soft but not too mushy. Season with salt or fish sauce and sugar to taste. Garnish with thinly chopped green onion.
If you want to make the ca ri ga pot pie, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 15 minutes before the ca ri is done and remove the cut puff pastry from freezer and allow to defrost. Make a egg wash with 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water and generously brush the edges. Ladle the ca ri into an oven proof ceramic cookware and place the puff pastry, egg wash side down over the container. Seal by pressing pastry edges tightly onto the cookware. Brush another layer of egg was on top of the puff pastry and make a small "x" in the center to dissipate steam. Bake until crust is golden and flaky, about 15 minutes. If you're making the pot pie from leftovers in the fridge, microwave about 1-2 minutes before baking to ensure even temperature.
Although always reluctant to see summer disappear, we quickly forget and are easily comforted by warm and soulful curries. It really should be illegal to crack into a perfectly crisp puff pastry crust and discover the rich and hearty flavors of ca ri hiding inside. But go ahead, treat yourself and your family and whip up ca ri ga pot pie. They'll warmly thank you for it.
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