I love discovering new and interesting flavours and when I discovered this Laotian Chicken Curry with Bamboo Shoots I was an instant fan.
Laotian food always seems to be left in the background in favour of it's better-known relatives, Thai and Vietnamese. To describe Laotian food, I would say it's the perfect marrying of the two. Spice, flavour, lightness and freshness in one perfect cuisine. The closest I came to the food of Laos before was on a trip to Cambodia. The two countries have a very similar cuisine - lots of interesting lighter dishes - spice is still centre stage, but not in the same aggressive way that it is in Thai and definitely more forward than in its Vietnamese cousin. It's a very interesting cuisine indeed!
This curry was first enjoyed (one of many hundreds of times!) at a small marketplace about 5 minutes from my house. The wonderful Laos Asia Market is a small, strip mall joint that stocks all my South East Asian essentials and then some. They have a tiny cafeteria there that serves an even smaller menu of delicious Laos favourites. THIS Laos chicken curry is one such delight.
What is the base of a Laotian Curry?
This Laos Chicken Curry recipe is special because it creates a uniquely milder flavour with the unmistakeably fragrant flavours synonymous with the region. It all starts with a good curry paste. I was dutifully informed, by the lovely lady in the cafe that the curry in the store starts with a good Thai red curry paste. As the grinding of curry pastes is a laborious and time-consuming activity, many Thais and Laotians will buy their pastes pre-ground from the market or store. So, I didn't feel guilty about taking a paste and using this as the flavour base for the curry. But beware! Don't buy a curry paste from Trader Joes or the local supermarket... I'll be blunt here - they're garbage. They lack flavour and intensity and are not going to give you that authentic flavour. You can get hold of great curry pastes from most Asian stores and definitely online. Take the time to start on the right footing!
What makes this Laotian Chicken curry so special?
This sauce in particular has a unique flavour courtesy of bamboo shoots (the sprouts from bamboo plants). You CAN find them raw if you truly hunt for them, but to be honest it's not worth your effort. Bamboo shoots contain toxins that need to be eradicated before eating - this means boiling them to cook out the impurities. Getting hold of canned bamboo shoots is infinitely easier and the canning process eradicates any toxins.
This curry is turning out to be pretty labour saving right!?
Bamboo shoots are a delicious vegetable! They have a hard-to-pinpoint flavour - part floral, part earthy - it's certainly the one element that gives this dish it's unique flavour. The texture I liken to an enoki mushroom - a soft texture with a little bit of bite. One note: I buy bamboo shoot tips in water and not brine as I often feel the brine versions impart an astringent saltiness. The cans in water are better. I prefer the tips (as shown below) as they're more tender, but you can also find them as strips, slices and whole. You decide!
In essence, this sauce, like so many curries from South East Asia is fairly liquid. The thin quality means it can be used with either rice or rice noodles. The dish is somewhat like the much loved Laotian soup Khao Poon - Laos' version of Malaysian Laksa some might say. The curry sauce is thin, so can be eaten like a soup with noodles if you like. I also eat it this way with rice sometimes - a kind of rice curry soup! IT'S DELICIOUS.
The Laotian chicken curry really has a wonderful flavour, texture and colour. It's a curry I go to time and again for a mild, floral and fragrant taste of South East Asia. If I'm feeling lazy or if I'm merely passing by Laos Asia Market, I'll always pop in and grab a portion with a few bundles of sticky rice to accompany. It's one of my favourites! And even though I know how to make it at home, there's something so nice about having someone make it for you!
If you're ever in Vegas, be sure to hunt out this store. If not - follow my simple recipe at home and create yourself a little bowl of Laos, without leaving your kitchen.
More delicious South East Asian Curries
If, like me you're a fan of the Curries of South East Asia, then I'm more than sure, you're going to just love one of my other curry recipes. Give one (or all) of them a try!
In a wok or large saucepan, heat the oil over a moderate heat. Add the galangal, lime leaves and garlic and fry for about 10 seconds before adding the red curry paste and about 1/3 cup of the coconut milk. Stir and let this sizzle for about 2-3 minutes – the oil will separate, which is fine. If it starts to stick, add a little water to cool things down a bit.
Add the chicken and stir well to coat everything. Fry for 1-2 minutes before adding the remaining coconut milk and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Cook the chicken for 25 minutes until cooked through.
Add the bamboo shoots, fish sauce and sugar and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice just before serving.
Serve scattered with cilantro and alongside some fluffy jasmine rice.
Laoatian Chicken Curry with Bamboo Shoots
Amount Per Serving
Calories 527Calories from Fat 441
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 36g225%
Vitamin A 2411IU48%
Vitamin C 9mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.