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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cambodian Chicken & Butternut Squash Curry


I remember the first time dw fed me. He was preparing a salad. I observed him while he cleaned a red bell pepper, quickly running it under the cold tap. Next he cut off the top, slicing around the stem, saving the small nubs surrounding it. From there he cut it in half, carefully removing the membrane & seeds. Last, he deftly cut matchsticks, offering me one. He stood close to me & I saw that droplets of water still clung to his fingers, and the bell pepper. He fed it to me, it was cold and crisp, delicious and I was suddenly ravenous.

{whispers} I don't think I breathed for 30 seconds after that.

And it's been like that ever since. This is how we live our life together: Intentionally. Deliberately. Joyfully. Soon we begin a new phase -- merging of households! We discuss my stuff, his stuff, our stuff. We carefully plan for the big move, decide what to keep, what to donate and what to throw out. We have quiet times of stress but louder moments of celebration. I try to starve the worry and feed the joy.

I made this dish recently during a particularly nerve wracking week. What would normally take me thirty minutes to whip up, I stretched to two hours. I took my time prepping, meticulously dicing the onions, slicing the ginger, lining up my mise en place accordingly. I waited patiently for the turmeric to deepen in color, browning the chicken methodically and then braising the hard flesh of the butternut in the coconut milk, coaxing it to tenderize. At first bite, the curry is gentle, warming slowly and then finishing with a sweet linger. And it left me famished for more.


Cambodian Chicken & Butternut Curry
adapted from the complete Vietnamese Cookbook by Ghillie Basan

1 oz galangal or ginger, finely sliced
1 small onion, or half a big one, finely sliced
2 TBL kroeung*
2 tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp ground fennel seed
2 tsp sugar
1 lb organic, skinless & boneless chicken breast, cut into bite size chunks
2 TBL tuk prahok**
1 can of full fat coconut milk + can amount of water
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite size chunks
4 kaffir lime leaves
salt/pepper to taste
cilantro or mint to garnish
rice or noodles to serve

heat up some oil in a pot. stir in sliced ginger and onions, saute until fragrant. add in the kroeung, cook up until it begins to color. add the tumeric, fennel seed and sugar.

stir in the chicken and cook until golden brown on all sides. stir n the tuk prahoc & pour in the coconut milk + water. bring to a boil, add in the squash and lime leaves. reduce heat, cook gently, uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until the squash is tender and sauce has reduced. season to taste. garnish with mint and serve with hot steamed rice or noodles.

*kroeung is an herbal paste, a base flavoring in khmer dishes. obviously i don't have this handy so i made it up: lemongrass stalks, trimmed with out leaves removed & chopped + ginger, peeled & chopped + garlic cloves, crushed + onions, finely chopped + organic lemon zest + salt. i chopped all these ingredients individually and then i chopped them up together. a mortar & pestle would've made the task easier.

**tuk prahok is also unique to khmer cuisine, it's a fish based condiment, made of fermented fish with rice & salt. typically, prahok is not used directly, it's diluted in hot water & then strained. the strained water is called tuk prahok. again, i don't have this handy but i do have fermented shrimp paste. i diluted the shrimp paste in hot water and the strained water from that is what i used.


  1. What a beautiful post. I love the way you write about dw, and the life you're making together. (And the butternut squash ain't half bad, neither.)

  2. This post was pure poetry Lan. Good luck with the move!

  3. All the best for the move...what a gorgeous looking comforting curry. I love curry on rice, cannot get tired of it no matter how spicy or subtle it is.

  4. This is an exciting phase, for sure, with all its ups and downs...all the best! Wishing you countless years of happiness and bliss together.

    This curry sounds like a good way to "starve the worry". I've never seen butternut squash in curry and I find it interesting. It looks like the perfect sweet companion.

  5. So excited for you! It will be five years since I started cohabiting with the fella who became my husband and we are finally to the point in our lives where we were able to get rid of some of the excess stuff we had lying around. (Then again - we also own a house, so we had the luxury of taking our time.) It's an interesting challenge, do it mindfully, don't stress out too much about it. Just enjoy the future and what is to come. :)

  6. This dish looks lovely. The colour is great. I think I have that bowl too.

    Your food journey with DW is lovely to read and is so romantic. Good luck with the big move. Your relationship will deepen and blossom when you live and breathe each other's space.

    p.s. For some reason I can't comment on this blog signed in or even with a name/url.

    Genie @ Bunny Eats Design

  7. We are sharing the Kreativ Blogger Award love with you, becuase we think what you do is awesome!

  8. meister, we are kinda mushy gushy, aren't we?

    wendi, thank you!

    vinita, i completely agree with you, curry is always so comforting, no matter the weather or heat of it.

    beetlebuggy, i hadn't heard of butternut squash in curry either and the original recipe calls for the use of pork... i used chicken because it's lighter and it's what i had handy.

    SKM, well i do own my condo so we have plenty of time too... i worry about the whole seeming to live out of boxes thing, cus i never can seem to get out of that phase!

    genie, i hope i was able to fix the bug! thank you for your sweet words. dw says that either you guys are going to get tired of hearing so much about him OR y'all are going to try to steal him from me! :)

    cupcake crusaders, you guys are so sweet, thank you!

  9. wow this dish looks absolutely delicious. I love your blog!!! great job :)

  10. So exciting! Wishing you all the best!