Put Your Best Fork Forward for National Nutrition Month® 2017

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Mango Boat Chicken Curry

  This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month® is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” Whether your tool is a fork, spoon, chopsticks or your hands – nourish yourself well.

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

One way I do this is by exploring new foods and cuisines. Recently I picked up little knobs of fresh turmeric and was inspired to create a dish similar to Vietnamese chicken curry, Ca Ri Ga, a dish I ate at an unforgettable outdoor lunch on the Mekong Delta  one year ago.

Note: Fresh turmeric is in the spotlight presently, although it’s uses goes back centuries.  Read more about its health-promoting properties in my blog with an Indian-style recipe Red Lentil Dal with Winter Squash and Tarka .

The stew I was served included white potatoes and carrots.  I’m using carrots, sweet potatoes, and a red bell pepper to boost color and nutrients.  Cauliflower or asparagus would be good additions, too.  Or make a vegetarian version by swapping browned tofu cubes for the chicken.  In her cookbook, Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table, Mai Pham, makes a similar all-vegetable version. According to her, the Vietnamese hold vegetables and vegetarianism in high regard.

I’ve added rice noodles to my recipe to make a substantial noodle bowl. Or you could serve it with cooked long grain rice or even a toasted baguette, a food that was incorporated into Vietnamese cuisine following the French occupation  from the mid-1800s to mid-1900s.

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

The influence of China, other Southeast Asian cultures and France on Vietnamese cooking is one reason it is so fascinating. I also love the Vietnamese tradition of including a mountainous plate of herbs, sprouts and greens, what Mai Phan calls a “table salad,” along with other condiments, with meals so each diner can customize each bite with freshness and spice.

Happy National Nutrition Month®.

Mango Boat Chicken Curry

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Wear gloves when handling fresh turmeric or it will turn your hands, kitchen tools and any fabric it touches a sunny yellow color.  I use a flat microplane tool to finely grate ginger and turmeric. 

Kaffir lime leaves are another specialty ingredient.  If you don’t have them add a little lime zest and/or lime juice. 

You can serve this dish over cooked brown rice or with slices of toasted baguette – if you do it will be more broth-y as the noodles soak up quite a bit of the sauce.  The stew reheats well. 

Serves 8.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/3 cup finely chopped shallots

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 teaspoons mild curry powder

1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger

½ to 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes, more to taste

3 cups sodium-reduced chicken stock

3 stalks lemon grass, outer stalk removed and bottom 4 inches cut off and bruised with a meat pounder

2 tablespoons grated, peeled fresh turmeric

3 kaffir lime leaves

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1 can (13.5 ounce) reduced-fat coconut milk

1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

½ lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1 red bell pepper, cut into ¾-inch cubes

8 ounces dry brown rice noodles (about ¼-inch thickness), soaked in hot water 10 minutes and drained


Asian basil leaves, fresh cilantro and/or thinly sliced green onion

  1. Heat a Dutch oven or large deep skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Coat bottom of pan with 1 tablespoon of oil. Add chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown chicken pieces on all sides, stirring once or twice. Remove to a plate and set aside.
  2. Add remaining tablespoon of oil to pan along with shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until shallot is translucent. Stir in curry powder, ginger and chili flakes. Add broth, lemon grass, fresh turmeric, lime leaves, fish sauce and sugar. Cover, bring to a simmer and cook gently for10 to 15 minutes to allow flavors to infuse.
  3. Add coconut milk, sweet potatoes and carrots. Cover, return to a simmer and cook gently until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add chicken, bell pepper and noodles. Simmer 1 minute or until chicken is cooked through.

© Lorelle Del Matto 2017

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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