Laotian Chicken Curry with Bamboo Shoots

By Lee Jackson ↣ Published on: October 19, 2020

Last Updated: November 23rd, 20234 Comments on Laotian Chicken Curry with Bamboo Shoots

This fragrant South East Asian curry delight has bags of flavour without blowing your head off with spice. Mild, but still intense and very uniquely Laotian.

Laotian Chicken Curry with Bamboo Shoots

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, Thaiand 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.

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!

Cans of various curry pastes in a Laotian supermarket in the US

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!

The delights of Bamboo shoots

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.

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 its 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 waterand 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!

Cans of bamboo shoots in a Laotian supermarket

Stuff You'll Need

Making this delicious curry is simple. Here's where the flavour comes from:

  • Chicken - I always use thigh meat for this curry as it's where all the flavour is. It also stays juicy throughout the cooking, where breast meat would dry out.
  • Red Curry Paste - Use a Thai red curry paste. I love the Maesri, and Mae Ploy brands FYI.
  • Aromatics - There's more fragrance and flavour to be found in coconut oil, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and garlic.
  • Coconut milk - brings a rich creaminess to the sauce
  • Bamboo Shoots - for their delightfully unique flavour and texture.
  • Seasonings - Fish sauce, sugar and lime juice balance out the quintessential salty, sweet and sour notes of South East Asian cuisine.

Step by Step

Creating the curry is simple, follow only a few easy steps and you'll be good to go.

  1. Step 1 - Season the hot coconut oil with galangal, lime leaves and garlic briefly before adding the red curry paste. I like to add a little coconut milk too, to avoid it burning in the pan. It also creates a little oil separation which is typical of South East Asian curries.
  2. Step 2 - Add the chicken, then coconut milk and a little water and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 25-30 minutes.
  3. Step 3 - Add the bamboo shoots and sugar and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Step 4 - Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning with salty fish sauce and zingy lime juice. That's it!

Now you're good to serve. I like to serve mine scattered with cilantro over fluffy jasmine rice or with rice or egg noodles.

A bowl of vibrant orange Laotian chicken curry and spoon on a green batik background aotian Chicken Curry with Bamboo Shoots

Storage Suggestions

  • Fridge - the Laotian curry will be fine in the fridge for 4-5 days, in airtight containers.
  • Freezer - this is a good curry for freezing and it'll be good for 3+ months. Keep in airtight containers. Reheat from frozen in a microwave until piping hot. Be sure to stir a few times during reheating to avoid scorching.
A close up of some Laotian chicken curry on a spot. with a bamboo shoot.

Ready to get cooking?

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.

A bowl of vibrant orange Laotian chicken curry and spoon on a green batik background 

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A bowl of vibrant orange Laotian chicken curry and spoon on a green batik background 

Laoatian Chicken Curry with Bamboo Shoots

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5 from 3 votes
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Recipe by Lee
Course Main Course
Cuisine Laoatian, Thai
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Servings (adjustable) 4
Calories (per serving) | 527

Ingredients

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

Scatter freshly chopped cilantro and serve with lots of fluffy jasmine rice or poured over rice or egg noodles.

Storage:

  • Fridge - store in airtight containers in the fridge for 4-5 days.
  • Freezer - keep for 3+ months in airtight containers in the freezer.
  • Reheating - Reheat in a pan or in the microwave until piping hot. Be sure to stir regularly in a microwave to avoid scorching.

Nutrition

Calories: 527kcal (26%) | Carbohydrates: 13g (4%) | Protein: 15g (30%) | Fat: 49g (75%) | Saturated Fat: 36g (225%) | Cholesterol: 61mg (20%) | Sodium: 1132mg (49%) | Potassium: 547mg (16%) | Fiber: 2g (8%) | Sugar: 6g (7%) | Vitamin A: 2411IU (48%) | Vitamin C: 9mg (11%) | Calcium: 71mg (7%) | Iron: 6mg (33%)
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