Traditional Vietnamese beef curry is a hot-free, creamy, nutty and buttery dish. Dip warm pieces of bread in this salty sweet and nutty flavorful stew for a whole-pot-meal autumnal experience!
The first thing to know about Vietnamese curry is it is not chili hot, and thus is kid-friendly.
In Vietnam we don’t have a curry cult like Thai curries. We only have one kind of traditional curry, and that is the yellow one. The yellow color stems from turmeric and curry powders. The first one is added for color and not for the taste. That’s why you can hardly smell any turmeric in the curry.
The traditional version is made with coconut milk. The whole stewing process will help the beef and vegetables to absorb the coconut milk and in the end we will have creamy buttery rich vegetables and beef. I saw and tasted the newer version of curry where ordinary milk is added. I find that ordinary milk makes the curry creamy and less heavy than coconut milk. You can experiment with ordinary milk if you want. I like both versions by the way.
The chosen meat can be beef or chicken. The vegetables in traditional Vietnamese curry are always carrot and potato but I also see people adding taro root. Taro root has a creamy taste of its own with a distinctive nutty flavor. I find the potato absorbs the flavor of the curry stew more readily than the taro. However the taro root is better suited for curry stew in cold weather as it retains the hot temperature longer than potato, and it is also healthier with more dietary fiber and is gluten-free (!). For today's curry, I'll stick with the traditional version using potato and carrot. Let's begin!
500 gr beef shank, cut into small cubes/chunks
300 gr potato, cut into cubes
200 gr carrot, cut into thick chunks then divided in halves
3 teaspoons of curry powder
1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
1 tablespoon of grounded lemongrass
1 whole lemongrass, slightly pounded
1 small chunk of Ginger root, crushed
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
200 ml of coconut milk
150 ml of water or broth
1 teaspoon of salt,
20 gr palm sugar or brown sugar
3 tablespoons of fish sauce
Cilantro and chili for garnish (optional)
Marinate the beef with salt and grounded lemongrass for 1 hour.
In a pot, heat a bit of vegetable oil then sautée the crushed garlic and ginger root until fragrance. Put in the marinated beef, turmeric powder and curry powder and sautée for 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium low. Pour in the coconut milk, water then add palm sugar, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce and the slightly pounded whole lemongrass and let’s stew for 45 minutes to one hour with lid covered. If you use pressure cooker, 15 minutes will do.
Next add the carrot and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce. Cook on medium heat for 15 minutes.
Lastly add potato and a bit of water if you need to. Again let it stew for 10 minutes.
Serve hot with rice or bread.
The size of the beef chunks depends on your cooking time. The quicker the recipe, the smaller the chunks. I cut mine really small, about 2x2 cm. The same principle applies for potato chunks.
Crush the whole garlic and ginger root with the knife’s blade, don’t cut them into pieces. This way we won’t have to deal with little lumps of garlic and ginger floating in the stew.
We cook the beef curry with the lid the whole time.
You might need to add water now and then. Always keep enough water to cover the beef and vegetables. Only till the very end when you cook the potato that the water can be reduced by letting it evaporate.
The purpose of using whole lemongrass is for it to release the essence into the stew since we used grounded lemongrass to infuse the beef earlier. You can throw the lemongrass away when the curry is done.
If you substitute potato with taro root, the cooking time will be longer.
A melting pot experience, in more than one way. Welcome to our Epicurean adventure!