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Duck Curry Noodle Soup: Memories of Bún Cà Ri in Saigon

It took a while recreating bún cà ri, our first meal in Saigon. We bought a whole duck weeks ago but, as the intense heat of summer overwhelmed us, we dilly-dallied. Was it really the best time for such a rich hot dish?

Duck Curry Noodle Soup

Meat and seafood in the freezer came and went, but the duck continued to sit there.

Then, there was the trip to Hanoi… Well, it’s been more than a week since Sam and I came home from Hanoi. It’s high time that the duck got chopped.

The breast was deboned, seasoned and returned to the fridge.

The entire back went into a resealable bag; it will be cooked as a soup later.

The thighs, legs and wings became this duck curry noodle soup.

Searing duck in its own rendered fat
Searing duck in its own rendered fat

Our version is seared duck simmered in Thai-style curry served with rice noodles and basil snipped from a pot in the garden.

Onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves
Onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves were sauteed with chili powder, turmeric and coriander.

Alex cooked it with fresh spices and kaffir lime leaves plucked from our own tree. Ahhh… the perks of living in the suburb. The internet service sucks but at least we have space for growing fruit trees and herbs.

When the dish was done, there was the obligatory photo shoot… Then, we enjoyed the duck curry noodle soup with its traditional accompaniments.

Muoi Ot (Vietnamese Chili Salt)
Muoi ot (Vietnamese Chili Salt) bought at the Lotte grocery in Hanoi

At the huge grocery in the basement of Lotte Hotel in Hanoi (no, we didn’t stay there; we just shopped at the grocery), I found jars of Vietnamese condiments including muoi ot, the chili salt that the bún cà ri vendor in Saigon taught us how to use.

Muoi Ot (Vietnamese Chili Salt)
Muoi ot and freshly squeezed citrus juice (lime, lemon or calamansi) are indispensable accompaniments for duck curry noodle soup

Just like we were taught in Saigon, we sprinkled chili salt over everything in the bowl, squeezed in calamansi juice and tossed everything together before digging in.

Beautiful lunch!

How to Cook Duck Curry Noodle Soup

Saigon-style Duck Curry Noodle Soup

Print Pin
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Keyword: Noodle Soup, Noodles
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 3 people
Author: Connie Veneracion

Ingredients

Duck curry

  • legs, thighs and wings from a 2-kilogram duck
  • 2 tablespoons duck fat
  • 1 yellow onion (two shallots, if you have it), thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced lemongrass
  • 1 pair kaffir lime leaves thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • fish sauce to taste
  • 2 sweet potatoes peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 large handful fresh spinach
  • 2 cups coconut milk

To complete the dish

  • dried rice noodles (enough for three people) soaked in hot water for 30 minutes then drained
  • fresh Thai basil

To garnish

  • muoi ot (Vietnamese Chili Salt)
  • fresh lime, calamansi or lemon halved or quartered

Instructions

  • Pat the duck dry with paper towels.
  • Heat a heavy frying pan then lay the duck pieces, skin side down, in a single layer. Cook until the skins are browned and fat has been rendered.
  • Flip the duck pieces over and sear the opposite sides.
  • Lift the duck from the fat, move to a plate and set aside.
  • Take two tablespoons of duck fat from the frying pan and pour into a heated pot.
  • Saute the onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves with the chili powder, turmeric and coriander until the solids are softened.
  • Pour in two cups of water and bring to the boil.
  • Drop in the seared duck and season generously with fish sauce.
  • Simmer for 20 minutes then drop in the sweet potato wedges and spinach.
  • Continue simmering for another 10 minutes then scoop out the duck and set aside.
  • Pour the coconut milk into the pot. Taste. Add more fish sauce, if needed. Leave to simmer, covered, while you assemble the bowls.
  • Divide the noodles among three bowls.
  • Chop the duck through the bone into manageable pieces. Divide among the three bowls.
  • Add sweet potato wedges to the noodles and duck in the bowls.
  • Ladle in the broth and spinach over the noodles, duck and sweet potatoes.
  • Garnish the duck curry noodle soup with sprigs of fresh Thai basil.
  • Serve with muoi ot and lime, calamansi or lemon on the side.
Duck Curry Noodle Soup Recipe
Written By

I travel to eat, drink and learn new cuisines. I do some shopping too. Between trips, I write travel stories and share travel-inspired recipes. That is my idea of retirement with purpose.

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