Chicken is one of those things that's easy to always make the same way, so I'm always on the lookout for new recipes. This one appears in my go-to Vietnamese cookbook: Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen. It comes together quickly which is perfect for a weeknight. If you're pressed for time, chop the vegetables in the morning or the night before. Otherwise, this dish can be made is the time it takes rice to cook (and I used Jasmine which cooks in 15 minutes).
A key ingredient is lemongrass. For those unfamiliar with it, you can find it in Asian markets and some supermarkets. A stalk is about 14-16 inches in length and it's yellow-green in color. A caross section toward the bottom will show a bit of purple. Be sure to remove the outer layer and then chop fine - it's fibrous so chopping will ensure that doesn't impact the texture of your dish.
The list of ingredients might seem odd: Madras curry powder is typically in Indian food, coconut milk in Thai. But, believe me, it comes together in a uniquely Vietnamese way. If you like heat, leave the seeds and ribs in the chile. For a milder stir-fry, remove them. The original called for chicken thighs, but I had breasts in the fridge so I used those. This makes enough for 4 with rice (or, in our case, 2, with leftovers!)
Chicken Stir-fried with Lemongrass and Chile
adapted from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen
1 1/3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
2 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 Tbsp. Canola or other neutral oil
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 large Jalapeno, or other hot chile, chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and finely chopped (about 3 Tbsp.)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch squares
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
Chopped cilantro, to garnish
In a bowl combine the salt, sugar, curry powder and fish sauce. Add the chicken and toss to combine. Set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.
In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the shallot, chile, and lemongrass and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the chicken to the mixture and stir to coat with the aromatics, then let it cook undisturbed for about 1 minute until nicely seared. Flip the chicken over to sear on the other side.
Add the bell pepper and coconut milk and lower to a simmer. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even cooking. As the coconut milk reduces it will simmer vigorously. The chicken is done when the coconut milk is barely visible. Check the seasoning and add more salt if desired.
Serve with steamed rice, such as Jasmine, and sprinkle with cilantro.