My favorite dish in London is the Vietnamese chicken curry from Banh Mi Bay. The curry is aromatic and so satisfying – like a full sensory escape from a busy day of work. The little takeaway restaurant that always has a line wrapping out of the door was one of my first discoveries near my office on the bustling Oxford street. I started sampling all of their dishes: lemongrass beef rice box, caramel pork banh mi and tender beef brisket pho. At some point I grew so passionate about the place that I told myself I had a duty to support the small business by going once a week and taking a colleague each time!
I cut back on my visits to Banh Mi Bay when I made a commitment to eating at least one home-cooked meal per day. At £6.95 per meal (roughly $9), the filling chicken curry was a comparatively affordable lunch option in the city. But if I could budget better with cooking, I could save $5-25 a day from a lunch or dinner. The pledge helps make my huge apartment more affordable and gives me extra savings for all of my travels.
I also wanted to motivate myself to get back into the kitchen. I was staying late in the office or at a pub past dinnertime and I wasn’t making the effort to plan what to eat for lunch the next day – or even what I could have for a late dinner, after the stores had closed. By eating one home-cooked one meal a day I could maintain the flexibility to eat out for lunch or dinner – a balanced arrangement that suits my professional and social life. I don’t have to leave work unfinished or turn down a social invitation to go home and cook – I just have to do a little planning. I am the healthiest when I am cooking for myself and I can see the difference on my body even when I am eating bigger or more filling meals.
I learned to make Vietnamese chicken curry to bring my favorite restaurant meal home in London and take it with me back to America. After 5 or 6 attempts I’m really excited that I have matched the flavor! The base of this recipe is from Rasa Malaysia. I followed it exactly the first time I made it and found that it had all of the right ingredients, but something was still missing. Instead of adding everything to the pot at once, I improved this dish by adding a few more simple steps. Marinading the chicken and blooming the spices deepen their flavors so the 30-minute simmer tastes like it’s been cooking for hours. The flavors of the curry powder – turmeric, annatto seeds, lemongrass, coriander seeds, and chili – marry even more as they sit together, so this dish is great for meal prep and leftovers. Look for the special ingredients in this recipe at an Asian grocery store or find them on Amazon.
Plan to be making this easy weeknight meal a lot. This is healthy, hearty, soul-satisfying comfort food. I hope you enjoy as much as I do!
sol of the
- 1 lb boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into big pieces
- 3 Tablespoons Vietnamese curry powder or Madras curry powder, divided
- ½ teaspoon Cayenne, divided
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 2 Tablespoons shallot or onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 bay leafs
- 2 lemongrass white parts only, pounded and cut into 4-inch pieces
- ¼ lb carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- ⅔ lb potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 14.5 oz can (1¾ cups) chicken broth
- 1 medium onion, cut into big chunks
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 1 Tablespoon fish sauce, or to taste
- Cilantro and Scallions, to garnish
- Rub the chicken with half of the curry powder and cayenne and all of the sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes to marinade while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Heat oil in pan over medium. Fry the shallot, garlic and bay leaf for 30 seconds, then the rest of the curry powder and cayenne and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the chicken and lemon grass and fry for 5 minutes, stirring.
- Add chicken broth, potato and carrot. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add onion, coconut milk and fish sauce. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and take out bay leafs and lemongrass stalks. Serve over rice or with crusty bread with soy sauce and sriracha with a garnish of cilantro and scallions.