While I love Thai curries, I find the coconut milk a bit too rich and only end up eating it a few times a year so when I have a craving for spicy curry I either eat it Japanese style (Mmm, カツカレー katsu curry–breaded pork cutlet with curry and rice!) or this way which is a variation on the Vietnamese cà ri gà my Mom used to make. I remember eating this hearty yet refreshing meal when it was so cold in the gelid Middle West that my hair would freeze within 3 minutes of walking out the door (Hey, why blow dry my hair when I could sleep in an extra 5 minutes?). Most recipes use coconut milk for this as well, but I find that it’s just as flavorful and hearty without that heavy food coma-y sensation at the end. Besides the fact that I no longer have the metabolism of a 14 year old, smuggling fruits and veggies into your food not only adds healthy nutrients but also makes you feel full with fewer calories. The apples add sweetness, which counterbalances the spice of the curry, as well as fiber (a 2 1/2-inch diameter apple provides 4 g of fiber) and the savory broth and potatoes give you that tummy warming heartiness, all without the extra 800+ calories you get from a can of full-fat coconut milk (full-fat coconut milk has ~445 calories in a cup vs 160 calories in low-fat coconut milk or 290 calories in a 14.5-oz can). The brightly colored carrots provide 428% of the RDA of vitamin A, 21% vitamin K, 13% vitamin C, 3.6 g fiber, and 1.3 g of protein all in 1 cup as well as their own sweetness. So who wants to try a healthier take on curry with all the nutrients and much less calories while coming away from the table feeling pleasantly full? I do, I do 🙂
Just a couple things to note:
1) Why bother doing 2 different sized dices for the potatoes? Excellent question. By having smaller dice potatoes that cook first, you break them down into a starchy potato slurry that helps to thicken your curry giving it an even heartier feel. This is also a great trick for thickening chowder and other potato-based soups.
2) Ugh, bone-in chicken thighs? Can’t I just use boneless? Sure. I use bone-in thighs to get all that lovely marrow-y flavor from the bones to flavor the curry and bone-in is also much cheaper than boneless, often half the price per pound. More flavor for less cost? Sign me up!
3 tsp vegetable oil
3 (~1 lb) bone-in, skinless chicken thighs **substitute 1 lb tempeh or medium-firm tofu cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks if cooking vegan/vegetarian
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small onion, diced
3 tsp (3 inches) crushed ginger
3 tsp (3 cloves) crushed garlic
1-2 tbsp Madras curry powder (depending on how spicy you like it)
2 c low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
1 c water
2 tsp fish sauce (I like Three Crabs brand) or 1/4 tsp salt
1 large potato, peeled and finely diced
3 large potatoes, skin on and in 2-inch pieces
1 large apple, skinned, cored, and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 c steamed rice
Season chicken with salt and freshly ground pepper.
In a large ~3 quart pot, heat oil over med-hi heat till a drop of water evaporates in 1 second ~30 seconds. Brown chicken thighs ~2-3 minutes per side, heroically resisting the temptation to move them around as they will brown happily without your help 😉 Remove chicken from pot and set aside. Lower heat to medium and sauté onion, ginger, garlic, and curry powder till soft and golden brown ~4-5 minutes. **If using a slow cooker, add browned chicken, curry paste, and remaining ingredients, except rice, to slow cooker and cook on med-lo setting for 6-8 hours. Add broth, water, fish sauce, and finely diced potato. Cover and simmer for ~40 minutes (I like to mash any large apple or potato chunks with a spoon) then add chicken and any accumulated juices, remaining potatoes and carrot. Liquid should just cover the chicken, if not add enough water to cover. Cover pot and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes till chicken is falling off the bone. Remove chicken from pot and set aside for 5-10 minutes to cool. Pull meat off the bones and return to pot. Serve over rice. Makes 4 servings.
**If cooking vegan, brown the tempeh/tofu for ~1-2 minutes per side then set aside and add back to curry when adding the larger dice potatoes and carrot.