Curries appear in all Southeast Asian and Indian cuisines. Fresh turmeric gives more pungency to this Vietnamese dish, but dried turmeric, either store-bought or rehydrated and ground at home, is a satisfactory substitute.
• 1 teaspoon canola or other flavorless vegetable oil
• 4 halves skinless chicken breasts
• 2 tablespoons minced shallots, or 2 cloves mashed garlic
• 2–3 teaspoons minced fresh or rehydrated turmeric, or 11/2 teaspoons ground dried turmeric
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass or 1 teaspoon sereh (lemongrass) powder
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/16–1/2 teaspoon mild to hot cayenne pepper
• 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
• 1 cup water
• 1 teaspoon Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over a moderate flame until very hot but not quite smoking. Add the chicken breasts and sauté, turning once, until golden. Add the shallots and spices, using the smallest quantity of cayenne and adding more later to taste.
2. Sauté until the ingredients are fragrant, then add the coconut milk, water, and fish sauce. Cover the skillet and simmer 10 to 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
3. Serve immediately.
Cornelia Carlson’s obsession with herbs and spices began in the mint-scented tangle of an abandoned herb garden behind her childhood home. In the decades since, she has planted extensive herb gardens in the Snow Belt, coastal California, and the southwestern desert. Currently living in Tucson, Arizona, Cornelia has a bachelor’s degree in food research and master’s and doctoral degrees in biochemistry. She’s now at work on a cookbook.
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The Health Benefits of Turmeric