Curry powder is a popular spice blend used to flavor many dishes like curries, stews, soups, stir-fries, marinades, and more. While you can easily find curry powder mixes at the grocery store, making your own Vietnamese-style curry powder from scratch allows you to control the ingredients and customize the flavor.
This homemade Vietnamese curry powder features common spices like turmeric, coriander, cumin, and cinnamon blended in the right ratios to achieve an aromatic, mildly spicy, and vibrantly colored powder. With just a few ingredients and 5 minutes, you can have a flavorful DIY spice mix to liven up your cooking.
Why Make Homemade Vietnamese Curry Powder?
Here are some of the benefits of making your own Vietnamese curry powder blend at home:
- Tailor the flavor - Make it as spicy, aromatic, or well-balanced as you like by adjusting the quantities and types of spices used.
- Control the quality - Select fresh, high-quality spices for optimal flavor and aroma.
- Avoid additives - Many store-bought blends contain anti-caking agents and other unnecessary additives.
- Save money - Buying spices in bulk and blending them yourself is cheaper than purchasing premixed curry powder.
- Use it freshly ground - Grinding whole spices just before blending captures more flavor and aroma.
- Customize for dietary needs - Leave out any ingredients you want to avoid.
How Vietnamese Curry Powder Differs From Other Blends
While all curry powders feature a blend of warm, robust spices, Vietnamese curry powder has some distinctive characteristics that set it apart:
- Subtler, more delicate flavor compared to Indian curry blends
- Anise and cinnamon lend a touch of sweetness
- Turmeric and annatto provide a vibrant orange-yellow color
- Chili powder adds mild heat
- The strong lemongrass aroma is missing
By making it yourself, you can tweak the recipe to suit your tastes and achieve an authentic Vietnamese curry powder flavor.
Traditional Ingredients in Vietnamese Curry Powder
Here are some of the most common spices used in Vietnamese curry powder:
- Turmeric - Provides bright golden color and earthy, slightly bitter flavor.
- Coriander - Supplies citrusy, floral notes.
- Cumin - Imparts an earthy, nutty quality.
- Fennel - Lends a sweet licorice-like aroma.
- Cinnamon - Adds a subtle sweetness and warmth.
- Star anise - Provides a pronounced anise flavor.
- Chili powder - Brings mild to moderate heat depending on the amount used.
- Annatto - Mostly for reddish-orange color with little flavor impact.
Other spices like cloves, cardamom, and fenugreek seeds may also be included. Curry leaves are used in some recipes for a citrusy note.
Tips for Making Homemade Vietnamese Curry Powder
Follow these tips for the best results when making your own blend:
- Toast whole spices briefly to intensify the flavors before grinding.
- Use a dedicated coffee grinder to grind spices into a fine powder.
- Mix the ground spices well so the flavors are evenly distributed.
- Store the finished powder in an airtight container away from light.
- Make a small batch since spices lose potency over time.
- Adjust ingredient amounts to suit your tastes - add more or less chili powder for the desired heat level, for example.
How to Use Homemade Vietnamese Curry Powder
This versatile DIY spice blend can be used to add flavor to various dishes:
- Curries - Use it to make fragrant Vietnamese chicken, seafood, tofu, or vegetable curries.
- Soups and stews - Add a sprinkle to lentils, chickpeas, or vegetable stews.
- Marinades and rubs - Combine with oil, garlic, herbs, and lime juice to marinate meats.
- Stir fries - Toss a teaspoon into any Asian noodle or rice dish.
- Dips and dressings - Whisk some into peanut, fish, or ponzu dipping sauces.
- Pickled vegetables - Add a pinch to the brines and pickling spices.
Start with 1-2 teaspoons per dish depending on the flavor intensity you prefer. Adjust to taste once blended into the dish.
Tips for Cooking With Homemade Curry Powder
- Add the curry powder early on during cooking so the flavors have time to develop.
- Cook the curry powder briefly in oil to toast the spices and boost the aroma.
- Add more at the end for a more pronounced curry taste if needed.
- Use about 1 teaspoon per 1 pound of protein or vegetables.
- Combine with garlic, ginger, herbs, and acidic ingredients like lime juice to allow flavors to pop.
- Add a touch of sugar or coconut milk to balance out bitter notes from spices like turmeric.
Ingredient Substitutions and Additions
Feel free to customize this basic Vietnamese curry powder recipe:
- Instead of regular chili powder, use ground Kashmiri chiles for color without much heat.
- Use brown mustard seeds instead of yellow mustard seeds.
- Add a tablespoon of ground ginger for extra zing.
- Swap in ground coriander for fresh coriander seeds if you don't have the whole spice.
- Leave out the annatto powder if you don't have it or want a less red hue.
- Add other aromatic seeds like black onion, cumin, and nigella if desired.
Storing Homemade Vietnamese Curry Powder
To retain the freshness and potency of your homemade curry powder:
- Store in an airtight container away from heat, light and moisture.
- A cool, dark cupboard or drawer is ideal.
- Glass jars or stainless steel tins work better than plastic.
- Avoid the refrigerator or freezer which can cause condensation.
- Use within 3 months for the best flavor.
- Make smaller batches if you won't use it up quickly.
History of Vietnamese Curry Powder
While curry powder originated in India, it was likely introduced to Vietnam by Indian traders in the late 18th century during French colonial rule. The Vietnamese customized it over time to suit local tastes.
Compared to Indian curry powders, traditional Vietnamese blends use more cinnamon, star anise, black pepper, and chili resulting in a sweeter, spicier, brighter flavor profile. Turmeric and annatto give it a distinct vibrant orange-yellow hue.
It's used as the flavor base in classic Vietnamese curry dishes and other specialties like pho and bun bo hue. Modern recipes may veer more toward Indian spice blends.
Authentic Vietnamese Curry Powder Recipe
This recipe sticks close to the traditional Vietnamese curry powder ingredients and proportions.
Vietnamese Curry Powder Recipe
- Combine all the ground spices in a bowl and mix thoroughly with a spoon or whisk.
- Transfer the blended powder to an airtight container. Glass jar or stainless steel tin are best.
- Store in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months.
That's it! Now you have a vibrant, aromatic curry powder ready for making flavorful Vietnamese dishes. Start with 1-2 teaspoons per recipe and adjust amounts to your taste preferences.
Here are some tweaks you can make to customize your homemade Vietnamese curry powder:
Heat: Increase or decrease the amount of chili powder based on the desired spiciness.
Color: Add more annatto powder for deep reddish hue or turmeric for golden yellow.
Aroma: Use star anise instead of five-spice powder for a stronger anise flavor.
Spice blend: Substitute garam masala for five spice powder. Or add extra cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom.
Texture: Grind to a fine or coarse powder depending on the recipe.
Fresh spices: Use freshly toasted and ground coriander and cumin seeds instead of ground powder.
Sweetness: Add a pinch of nutmeg or cloves for a more sweet-spicy flavor.
Salt: Add a small pinch to balance and unify flavors.
Play around with the ingredients until you create your own signature homemade Vietnamese curry powder.
How is Vietnamese curry powder different from other blends?
Compared to Indian curry powder, Vietnamese curry powder has a subtler, sweeter flavor thanks to the addition of cinnamon, anise, and star anise. The turmeric and annatto also give it a bright orange-yellow color. It's not as hot and lacks the strong lemongrass flavor found in Thai curries.
Can I use Madras curry powder instead?
Madras curry powder makes an okay substitute but the taste won't be as sweet or authentic. Since Madras blends are based on southern Indian spices, they feature more heat and lack Vietnamese curry's distinctive anise flavor.
What's a good spice grinder for making curry powder?
The best spice grinder for grinding whole spices into powder is an electric coffee grinder dedicated just to spices. This will give you an evenly ground powder. Another option is a mortar and pestle but this can be time consuming for larger batches.
How long does homemade curry powder last?
Stored properly in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from light, homemade curry powder will stay fresh for up to 3 months. After that, the flavors and aroma start to fade. For maximum freshness and potency, try to use within a couple months.
Can I freeze curry powder?
It's best not to freeze curry powder if possible. The temperature fluctuations can cause condensation inside the container leading to clumping. And the aroma and essential oils can deteriorate faster. Store at room temperature for the 3 month shelf life instead.
Making your own Vietnamese-inspired curry powder at home lets you control the flavor, quality and ingredients. This versatile homemade blend adds a kick of spice and complex aroma to curries, soups, stir fries, marinades and more.
Customize it to your tastes by adjusting the quantities or types of spices used. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place and enjoy for up to 3 months. I hope you'll give this easy DIY curry powder a try soon to spice up your cooking!