Vietnamese Yellow Curry

Vietnamese Yellow Curry

Recipe derived from the Cooks Illustrated technique for curries


  • 2 Tablespoons yellow curry powder
  • 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 onion, quartered
  • 5 small red potatoes, sliced into 1/2” pieces
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into pieces
  • 10 leaves basil, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 lime

(Curry powder and fish sauce are combined to make curry paste, so you can substitute that directly)

Getting the most flavor

Here’s what Cooks Illustrated says to do in order to intensify the curry flavor: “Carefully spoon off about 1 cup of the top layer of cream from one can of coconut milk — this layer will be thick and possibly solid. Place the coconut cream and curry paste in a large Dutch oven and bring to a simmer over high heat, whisking to blend, about 2 minutes. Maintain this brisk simmer and whisk frequently until almost all of the liquid evaporates, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-high and whisk constantly until the cream separates into a puddle of colored oil and coconut solids, 3 to 8 minutes. (You should hear the curry paste starting to fry in the oil.) Continue cooking until the curry paste is very aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes.”

Here’s the short version of that: Spoon the heavy part of the coconut oil into a pan and fry it up with the curry paste, whisking constantly. After what seems like a long time you’ll see the oil separate from the solids of the milk and continue cooking for 2 minutes past that. This technique is really effective at boosting the intensity of the curry flavor, much like how you drop Indian spices into super hot oil to release their flavor.

The lime juice may seem unimportant but it adds an great balance to the curry.


  • Combine fish sauce and curry powder to make curry paste
  • Fry curry paste and coconut milk as above
  • Add: rest of coconut milk, brown sugar, vegetables; cook 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft
  • Add: chicken; cook 5 minutes
  • Remove from heat; squeeze lime juice into pot; stir in basil

Serve over rice.


The common set of veggies at restaurants seems to be: onions, carrots, and sweet potatoes / yams. I’m trying that next time.