This recipe was inspired by the delicious Chicken Rendang dish I had at Malaysia Grill recently. One of the cooking methods that made that dish so unique was the use of ground onions in the gravy. The onions gave an amazingly aromatic and deep flavor to the dish. In my spin on a chicken curry, shallots are roasted and pureed into a paste in order to impart a similar flavor profile. This curry also incorporates flavors from Thai and Indian cuisines. I chose to make it with chicken, but it would be delicious with beef, shrimp or even vegetarian. Some crispy tofu or eggplant would be nice options. It might seem like a lot of steps, but once you’ve prepped, it really cooks quickly. You’ll love to eat this curry on a chilly day, or on any day of the year.
1 package of boneless, skinless chicken tenders, chopped into medium sized chunks
3 stalks of lemongrass
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
2 heaping spoonfuls of hot chili oil
2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of dried shrimp – this might seem like a weird ingredient, but it’s very prevalent in Asian dishes. It also gives a great umami flavor
3 small or 2 large limes
2 tablespoons of palm sugar (if you don’t have any palm sugar, then brown sugar or even white sugar is fine as a substitute)
2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon of peanut oil
2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 medium shallots
2 medium (or 1 extra large) russet potatoes (you want a good starchy potato to help thicken the curry and stand up to the cooking process)
2 teaspoons of Garam Masala
2 teaspoons of curry powder
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 cup of water
1.5 teaspoons of freeze-dried cilantro
1/2 of a 4oz jar of green curry paste (Thai kitchen is a good brand)
1 can of coconut milk
2-3 Thai green chilies, minced (jalapeños are a good substitute) — this is an optional ingredient, but really helps being a nice beat to the dish
To make the marinade:
- Chop the lemongrass into 1-2 inch long pieces and place into a plastic Ziploc bag (about gallon size)–Make sure the lemongrass isn’t cut too small since you’ll have to take it out before cooking.
- Add the rice wine vinegar, hot chili oil, the juice of 1 large or 2 small limes, fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of palm sugar, 1 tablespoon of peanut oil, 1 shallot roughly chopped, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and the dried shrimp.
- Place the chicken, cut into chunks, along with the rest of the marinade ingredients into a Ziploc bag with a strong zipper. Trust me, you’ll need the good kind, unless you want marinade all over your counter or the inside of your refrigerator.
- Toss the cut lime into the bag as well since the zest will help flavor the chicken. You can also add some fresh ginger to this marinade if you want to turn this into a chicken stir-fry style dish. After marinating the chicken, sauté it with some broccoli or peppers or snow peas in a hot wok and serve over rice. Yum!
- Marinade for 30 minutes minimum, and up to 1 day in the fridge.
To Make the Roasted Potatoes:
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Chop the potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut those pieces lengthwise again. Cut the long quarters into medium-large chunks. Don’t worry if all of the pieces aren’t the same size, your dish will look rustic and let people know that it’s homemade.
- Place the potatoes onto a baking sheet.
- Add a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, and dried cilantro. If you don’t have dried cilantro, then cumin would be tasty and would give the potatoes a smoky taste.
- Toss to coat all of the potatoes with the oil and spices.
- Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes. You want them be crisp and light brown on the outside, but be careful to not let them get too dark. These don’t require a lot of babysitting.
To Make the Shallot Paste:
- Peel the shallots (there will be 2 bulbs in each skin).
- If the shallot is large then cut the bulbs in half, if not then place it whole onto a baking sheet.
- Season the shallots with salt, pepper and remaining olive oil
- Put the shallots into the oven about 10 minutes after the potatoes.
- Once you’ve taken the shallots out of the oven, allow them to cool a bit.
- Put the shallots into a blender with the curry powder, garam masala, ground ginger, and remaining teaspoon of oil.
- Pulse while adding water until it comes together into a loose paste.
- The potatoes and shallot paste could both be made ahead of time, just make sure to refrigerate.
To Make the Curry:
- Add remaining peanut oil to a wok
- Heat your wok on medium to medium high heat until the oil is shimmering, but not smoking
- Add curry paste to the wok along with the zest of 1/2 a lime and minced Thai chilies, and heat through (1-2 minutes)
- Add the shallot paste to the wok. You’ll be able to smell the aromas of Garam Masala and curry powder after cooking for a few minutes.
- Add the coconut milk to the wok as well as the remaining sugar.
- Let the sauce come up to a simmer and taste. You can add more fish sauce to taste.
- Once the sauce is simmering steadily, it’s time to add the chicken. Remember to pick the lemongrass and limes out of the marinade bag. The lemongrass is inedible in this form and has done its job in flavoring the dish. Also, drain most all of the marinade out of the bag.
- Cook the chicken for a couple of minutes, then add the roasted potatoes.
- Now is the fun part. Stir the wok around and let it go on the stove for at least 10-15 minutes on medium low – medium in order to give the chicken time to cook in the sauce and the potatoes do lost their crispy exterior and absorb some sauce. Use this time to get a drink, or wash the chili off of your hands.
- After it starts simmering again, squeeze half of a lime into the wok and keep simmering. Save the remaining lime half.
- When the curry has reduced and has thickened up, so that sticks heavily to your spoon, then it’s done.
- Garnish with a wedge of lime and serve! A dollop of Greek yogurt or raita would be delicious to help cool down the palate as well.
There’s a deep Indian-spiced, curry flavor to the dish, with an escalating heat from the Thai chilies—no bite though, rather it’s a kind of heat that rests on the back of your tongue. You also taste the warming flavors of curry, garam masala and ginger, as well as an earthiness from the roasted shallots.
The chicken almost braises in the curry sauce, and doesn’t get chewy while cooking in the sauce. The potatoes also have a great mouth feel; they absorb some of the sauce, and the starchiness of the potatoes helps thicken up the gravy. The lemongrass complements the lime throughout the dish, and gives it a subtle citrus flavor, which helps cut across the heaviness of the dish itself. The dried shrimp rehydrates in the marinade as well as the curry, and much of it melts. The leftover pieces become chewy and add a nice fishiness to round out the flavor profile. Rice or naan is a great vehicle to scoop up the thick curry sauce, although the dish is filling enough to eat on its own. It’s so good you may lick your plate clean!