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Vij’s Chicken in Cardamom Yogurt Sauce with Red Bell Pepper Curry

December 31, 2008

My brother lives in Vancouver, but I have never been to Vij’s.   I have no excuse for myself, except to say I almost always have small children with me when I’m in town, and my brother lives off Commercial in East Van, a long way from Vij’s location on South Granville.  It also scares me that Vij doesn’t take reservations.  What time do you have to line up to get a table? 

Vij’s is legendary Indian fusion food.  He even takes culinary tours to India.  My friend Karen has his cookbook, Vij’s Elegant Inspired Indian Cuisine, and tells me that his curries are surprisingly easy to make.  I’m like, uuuuuh, I dunno – I heard that the best curries take three days to marinate.And then I came across two of Vij’s recipes in the latest Bon Appetit Magazine.  They have a monthly section called readers’ favourite recipes that come from readers’ requests of restaurant dishes.  
I can only say:  you must make the chicken dish.  Despite the long list of ingredients, the chicken was surprisingly easy to make.  It didn’t need to marinate at all, and the end result was still flavourful, fragrant, complex and delicious.  Using chicken thighs helps a lot. (I’m not a fan of the boneless skinless chicken breast.  I usually cook the heck out of it and it turns dry and tasteless.  Thighs are much more forgiving). 

I also made the Red Bell Pepper Curry and it was not as astounding as the chicken, but was a solid accompaniment to the dish.  The chicken was mild, and the red pepper curry was spicier.  Adjust the hot spices to your palate of course – I was cooking for kids, so I had a light hand on the hotter spices.

After trying one of Vij’s recipes, I vow to line up at whatever time is necessary to eat at Vij’s restaurant in Vancouver.  I’ll be sure to bring my umbrella.

Vij’s Chicken in Cardamom Yogurt Sauce
-from Bon Appetit’s readers’ favourite restaurant recipes, Jan/09

1 1/2 cups plain whole milk yogurt
1 1/2 cups canned tomato puree
3 Tablespoons ground cumin
2 Tablespoons ground coriander
2 Tablespoons canola oil
4 teaspoons paprika
1 Tablespoon celery seed
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamom pods, cracked
10 whole cloves
5 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 pounds chicken thighs (I used bone-in, skin-on thighs)
hanful of chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 375.  Whisk first 13 ingredients in a 2 quart baking dish.  Add chicken, and stir to coat the chicken with the sauce.  Bake until chicken is cooked through (for bone-in thighs, I cooked them 50 minutes).

Garnish with cilantro and serve with basmati rice and Red Bell Pepper and Shallot Curry (below).

Red Bell Pepper and Shallot Curry
-from Bon Appetit’s readers’ favourite restaurant recipes, Jan/09

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 cups thinly sliced shallots (about 10 large shallots)
1 bunch green onions, white and green parts diced
1 pound plum tomatoes, chopped
3 large jalapeno chilies, seeded and finely chopped  (I used jarred ones)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (I could not find black ones, so I used brown ones instead)
3 large red bell peppers, sliced into thin strips

Heat oil in a large deep skillet over medium high heat.  Add cumin seeds and cook until aromatic (about 30 seconds).  Add shallots and green onion.  Cook about 8 minutes until golden brown, stirring often.  Add tomatoes, jalapenos, turmeric, paprika and mustard seeds.  Simmer about 10 minutes.  Add bell peppers.  Cover and stir often, simmering about 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 7, 2014 2:10 pm

    To get in, line up by 5 for the 5:30 sitting…maybe 4:50 during the lovely weather months on a weekend. If you don’t wish to wait or line-up (they do take drink orders and pass appies during this time), then go to his café next door: Rangoli’s. As I write this, I am having his yogurt-marinated and tamarind chicken in a Bengali sauce. It is AMAZING…. and I order it every week. I’ve also tried his food truck Railway Express which is quite nice but not the same as going to his restaurants. He is a wonderful character to run into and treats each person as if they were the one person he was hoping to meet. I have both cookbooks and while I like both, I find his wife’s cookbook easier to use or I’ve had better success with. Do try the restaurant… it is worth it. It’s the place we take visitors and they always ask why it is so good…it’s hard to explain… the food is so comforting and fresh and interesting… the servers are great and friendly and a table visit by Vikram Vij is always a high-light. He is every ready for photos and to chat. It is just a very perfectly done restaurant without pretense… in a city with a lot of great restaurants. I’d like to say I am their #1 fan, but there are a lot of us out there.

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