This mild adaptation of an Indian curry has some Vietnamese twists: sweet potatoes and kaffir lime leaves. The leaves are available at Southeast Asian markets such as Duangrat's Market, 5888 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church (703-578-0622).
You can use a combo of white and sweet potatoes, if desired. For true, traditional flavor, use Vietnamese curry powder from an Asian market; D&D Gold is a popular brand. This golden curry mixture is similar to a Madras curry powder and is made of curry leaves, turmeric, dried chili pepper, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, allspice and salt.
Make Ahead: It's best to allow the curry to sit overnight so the chicken really absorbs the flavors from the spice-rich gravy.
Yield: (as part of a multicourse family-style meal)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
- 6 kaffir lime leaves, crumpled (see headnote)
- 2 tablespoons Vietnamese or Madras curry powder (see headnote)
- 3 to 4 pounds chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces, or 3 pounds of bone-in chicken parts
- 2 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut milk (about 1 1/2 cans)
- 1 cup water, plus more as needed
- 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes and/or russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat until the oil starts to shimmer. Add the onion and kaffir lime leaves; cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, until the onion has slightly softened. Add the curry powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and cook for about 15 seconds, stirring, until fragrant.
Add the chicken, skin side down; cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until lightly browned (the chicken will not be cooked through).
Add the coconut milk and 1 cup of water, then the potatoes. Make sure the chicken pieces and potatoes are submerged in the liquid; add water as needed. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for at least 1 hour and preferably 2 hours. When the dish is done, the chicken will be fall-apart tender, and the gravy will be thick from the starch of the potatoes. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, or to taste.
Remove the kaffir lime leaves before serving hot, with freshly steamed rice or French bread.
Adapted from "The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Home Cooking From Asian American Kitchens," by Pat Tanumihardja (Sasquatch Books, October 2009).
Tested by Monica Bhide.
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