There's something very special about Vij's restaurant in Vancouver, Canada. My girlfriends introduced me to Vikram Vij's Indian cuisine when I was in Vancouver for a visit a couple of years ago and I have been lucky enough to return a couple of times since then. Since reservations are not taken, we lined up with about 50 other hungry diners in anticipation of the 5:30 pm opening time. At first we were disappointed not to be in the first seating. That is, until we were seated in the small lounge area at the back of the restaurant. Glasses of wine in hand, we enjoyed people-watching and the amazing (free!) hors d'oeuvres that were offered to waiting diners. I felt as though I was an honored guest in Vikram Vij's home and I couldn't have been happier to wait for my main meal.
If you have are planning a trip to Vancouver, Canada, I beg you to put Vij's on your list of must-try restaurants. If you live in Vancouver, but have never been to Vij's - shame on you! Get yourselves over there immediately. Apparently, I am not the only one who thinks that Vij's is worth multiple visits. Here are a couple of quotes from food luminaries who have eaten at Vij's:
For those of us who don't live in Vancouver, there is a Vij's cookbook. With a couple of minor adjustments, this recipe for Vij's family curry was taken from that book.
In a large saucepan set over medium heat, heat ⅓ cup canola oil for 1 minute. Add 2 cups finely chopped yellow onion (about 2 medium onions) and one 3-inch stick of cinnamon.
Sauté for 7-8 minutes, or until the onions are golden brown. Add 3 tablespoons minced garlic and sauté for an additional 4 minutes.
Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger, 2 cups chopped tomatoes (2 large), 1 tablespoon salt, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon ground coriander, 1 tablespoon garam masala, and ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper. Stir well and cook until the oil starts to separate from the spice mixture, about 5 minutes.
Most of these spices can be found in the spice section of well-stocked supermarkets. However, if you live near an Indian store, I highly recommend buying the spices there. You'll pay a fraction of the price.
To the spice mixture, add 3 pounds skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (about 12 thighs).
Gratuitous raw chicken shot.
Stir well so that the chicken is covered with the spice mixture. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken has turned white on the outside. Add 1 cup of sour cream and 1 ½ cups of water, and stir well.
Turn up the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the saucepan, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the chicken is cooked through.
Remove the curry from the heat and let it cool for about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick.
If you have latex gloves, now is the time to put them on. If you don't have any, make a trip to the beauty supply or medical store. I"ll wait. Seriously, you will thank me. Turmeric is not kind to skin and if you do not want to look like you have a carrot and sweet potato addiction, you will heed my warning.
Wearing your newly-purchased latex gloves, peel the chicken off of the bones.
Return the chicken meat to the saucepan and mix with the gravy. Just before serving, stir in ½ cup chopped cilantro. Serve over basmati rice, accompanied by raita (mixture of plain yogurt, grated cucumber, garam masala, and salt) and mango chutney.
Rich & Savory Chicken Curry
⅓ cup canola oil
½ cup chopped cilantro
In a large saucepan set over medium heat, heat canola oil for 1 minute. Add chopped yellow onion (about 2 medium onions) and cinnamon stick. Sauté for 7-8 minutes, or until the onions are golden brown. Add minced garlic and sauté for an additional 4 minutes.
Add ginger, tomatoes, salt, freshly ground black pepper, turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, and cayenne pepper. Stir well and cook until the oil starts to separate from the spice mixture, about 5 minutes.