Thursday, April 12, 2012

Vietnamese Chicken and Vegetable Curry: Owner or customer?

Thanks to SH, who kept on making me this curry when I needed it most.  

I ask the following question - would you rather be the owner or a customer?

I like eating at restaurants, being the customer, going to stores, being greeted as the customer, and receiving service, as a customer.  I like being a customer.

However, at many points in the day, I am the owner.  I'm the owner of my home, the owner of my car, the owner of a community membership, an owner/partner in the communities to which I  belong.  But more and more these days, I see that many people have the attitude of customer in my communities and not that of an owner/partner.

At the community center where I belong, pay membership dues to, and partake of exercise classes and community events, I definitely am an owner/partner.  This means I respect the equipment, the facilities, and I try my best to keep them clean and in good condition.   After all, it's my space, one that I'm paying for, and one I'd like to keep nice and presentable.  I'm an owner after all.  But many many people I watch treat this space as a customer.  They show up, leave their towels on the gym locker room, leave their trash in the showers and in the hallways, and don't bother picking up after themselves.  That is the mentality, attitude, and actions of a customer, not that of an owner.  I've been instructing daughters very carefully, about their role in their community, and what is their important function as an owner of that space.  (I emphasize making sure that their towels are always picked up.)

At Daughters' school, I've gotten in more than a few altercations in the school drop off area.  First of all - it is a DROP OFF zone, and in the morning, when traffic is congested, as it always is as our school is over crowded and lacking in space, no one should even think of parking.  However, there is one gentleman who did park his car, and essentially blocked all the traffic behind him, which led out into the street and proceeded to block traffic around the block.  When he realized the traffic jam he was causing, he did come back to his car, and then attempted to move it, only then to almost back into me to park in an illegal red zone.  I rolled down my window and said, very politely, "Excuse me sir.  This is a community.  You can't just park and stop where ever you want.  Your actions affect the entire row of cars behind you."  His response was not a "sorry", but a "Write me up!  It's not my problem.  I'm going to do what I want."  His attitude is one of a customer, not an owner of the school community.  As a funny side note, it turned out that he was the father of a classmate of Daughter #2, so I run into him occasionally. I look him straight in the eye.  He averts his.

I'm also an owner at my church.  I never walk into my church building or church ministry with the idea that I'm here as a customer - I'm always an owner /partner.  I'm ready to do whatever it takes to make sure that the space is as wonderful as I want it to be for God.  But even here, in this space, the community where I think EVERYONE should want to be an owner, I see so many customers.  I watched someone spill an entire dish of food during and leave the food on the floor, expecting someone else clean it up.  That person was a customer.   In that person's stead, another person, who was not at all at fault in the spill in the first place, procured paper towels and cleaning materials and cleaned up another person's mess.  That person acted as an owner.  In this space especially, I don't want to judge others or say that I am better than the next person, because in God's eyes, no one is.  However, the customer attitude in this community breaks my heart and frustrates me.

Therefore, I want to encourage everyone; having an owner attitude is far easier than one thinks.  More than anything, being an owner is really about your heart.  And sometimes, we don't feel like being owners, and I feel that way more than I want to acknowledge. However, sometimes you have to ACT the way you want to feel - if you want to feel like an owner, sometimes you just have to act like one.   It isn't about creating the fanciest community, or the one that is better than the one down the block, but it is really about BEING in a community and taking ownership of that community and acting on it.

I look at this curry dish - which is essentially a pretty humble dish of vegetables and chicken that are brought together by a variety of non-fancy, ordinary ingredients.  But brought together, each ingredient taking an active role in the end result?  Fantastic.  Humble but wonderful.  Simple but cohesive.  Warm and comforting. The best use of individuals coming together in a community dish.

This curry comes together easily, once you get all the ingredients measured out and planned.  That is actually the hardest part of the dish, so I've rewritten the recipe to reflect the importance of just that planning.  This version has a lot more vegetables and a bit more kick than the original, but is still mild compared with a Thai curry or a Malaysian one.  This is a milder, more subtle curry and easy on the palate.
Vietnamese Chicken and Vegetable Curry
Adapted from Mai Pham's, Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table
Makes 6 to 8 servings

3 tablespoons curry powder (I used Trader Joes)
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 ½ to 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into large chunks (each thigh into 4 or 6 pieces)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon ground chili paste (use less if you’re concerned about too much

3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
3 lemongrass stalks, cut into 3-inch pieces and bruised with the flat side of a knife
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled, cut into 5 slices and bruised with the flat side of a knife
1 1/2 cups fresh chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth

3 carrots, peeled, cut on the diagonal into 2/3-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
1 lb small potatoes, cut into large pieces (I used gold potatoes, and sliced them in half)
2 to 3 red, yellow or orange bell peppers, cut into large pieces
8 oz haricot vert (green beans) cut into 2 inch pieces

13.5 or 14 oz can of coconut milk)

¼ cup cilantro chopped
¼ cup basil chopped

Combine 2 tablespoons of the curry powder and the salt in a bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat the meat evenly. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Measure and prepare all ingredients. In small bowl, add chopped shallots, garlic, chili paste, and remaining 1 tablespoon of curry powder. Set aside. In another bowl combine fish sauce, sugar, lemon grass stalks, ginger, and chicken stock. Set aside. In a large bowl have carrots and onion and potatoes ready. In the final bowl, have bell peppers and green beans ready.

Heat the oil in a medium pot over moderate heat. Add the shallot, garlic, chili paste and the remaining 1 tablespoon curry powder, and stir until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the chicken and cook until the edges of the pieces are golden, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass, ginger and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Add the carrots, potatoes and onions and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the bell peppers, green beans and coconut milk; cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with chopped cilantro and basil. Serve with white rice, or with a loaf of crusty french bread.

Printable recipe

All coming together and working for the common goal - GOOD FOOD!


NVMolly said...

Love the idea of "owner" vs "customer" it is so true and makes a huge difference in all types of communities. I am a teacher and this is a great way to talk to students about creating a classroom community. Thank you for posting - I may have to "borrow" :)

I can't wait to try this curry - it looks amazing! And, thankfully, not too intimidating!

Anonymous said...

Not sure when to put coconut milk. Don't know if you leave it out entirely?

Joanne Choi said...

Oh dear!! I will edit. But you add coconut milk same time when you add the green beans and bell peppers.

LadySaotome said...

I've always just thought of it as basic manners & taking responsibility. But ownership applies perfectly. In fact, at my husband's work with troubled youth, the terminology they use with the youth is taking ownership (of actions, attitudes, etc.) I agree with you 100% and it's sad to see so few people wanting to be "owners".

This curry looks amazing!

mrs m said...

Thanks for this post - we forget a lot of times that we are in fact "owners" more so than customers. You rock as always! Thanks again!

simplemittens said...

Mmm. I can't wait to out this on next weeks menu! And great post :)


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