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Vij’s Family’s Chicken Curry

September 20, 2010

By Kath Dedon


Vij Family’s Chicken Curry is the recipe that Vikram Vij’s mom made for his new Vancouver café in 1994. Today, Vij’s restaurant occupies a larger space and it has been hailed as the finest Indian restaurant in North America. I know it’s one of my favorite restaurants of all time and I can’t imagine visiting Vancouver without a dinner at Vij’s!

If you can’t make it to the restaurant, you can still sample the fabulous recipes in Vij’s: Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine, the 2006 book written by Vikram Vij and his wife, Meeru Dhalwala. My adaptation of Vij’s Family’s Chicken Curry is from this beautiful cookbook.

I’m still learning about Indian cooking and I’m a little intimidated by some of the ingredients. This recipe is great for people new to this delicious cuisine; most of the ingredients are available at a well-stocked supermarket.

I used a store-bought garam masala. Vij’s has a recipe for his favorite garam masala, but I haven’t tried it. You roast the spices first and then grind them. The recipe says the aroma of the roasting spices will be “quite strong” so you should be sure to have adequate ventilation (which we don’t have) and close all of the bedroom and bathroom doors. Although I’m sure the freshly roasted spices would take the recipe to a whole new level, it is still very good indeed made with the store-bought garam masala.

Vij’s Family’s Chicken Curry would work perfectly for a make-ahead dish for entertaining. Just refrigerate it and gently reheat it when it’s time for dinner. Serve it over steamed rice and/or with some naan so you can enjoy all of the sauce.



Vij’s Family’s Chicken Curry

(Adapted from Vij’s: Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine)


(print the recipe)


Serves 6


½ cup canola oil (I actually used light olive oil)

2 cups finely chopped onions

One 3-inch stick of cinnamon

3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger

2 cups chopped tomatoes (2 large) or 1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, drained

1 tablespoon  salt*  

*(If you are using salted canned tomatoes, decrease the salt to 1½ teaspoons.)

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon garam masala

½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

3 pounds chicken thighs, bone in

1 cup sour cream, stirred

2 cups water

½ cup chopped cilantro (including stems)


1. Put the onions and cinnamon stick in one bowl. Have the garlic and ginger chopped and ready to go. Measure the salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala and cayenne into a separate bowl.


Clockwise: onions and cinnamon, ginger, garlic, spices


2. Drain the tomatoes, if you’re using canned.

3. Heat the oil in a large skillet for 1 minute.

4. Add the onions and cinnamon to the oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are starting to turn golden, about 10 minutes.


5. Add the garlic and cook for 4 minutes.

6. Add the ginger, tomatoes, and the spices to the skillet.


7. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the oil separates from the masala.


You can see the oil separated from the masala here:


8. While the masala is cooking, remove the skin from the chicken thighs. Grab an end of it with a paper towel and pull it off. (The paper towel gives you a better grip.)

9. Add the chicken thighs to the masala and stir well. Cook for about 10 minutes, turning them over after about 5 minutes.


10. Stir in the sour cream and the water and increase heat to bring it to a boil.


Stirring in the sour cream


Water added


11. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times.

12. Check the chicken with a meat thermometer, or cut into a thigh to see if it’s done. If it’s not done, cook for about another 5 minutes. (Mine was done after the 15 minutes simmer.)

13. Remove the cinnamon stick, and let the curry cool for at least 30 minutes.

14. Remove the chicken from the masala. Using latex gloves, tear the meat from the bones and put the meat back in the sauce. (At this point the curry could be refrigerated to serve later or the next day.)



15. When ready to serve, gently heat the curry until it is hot. Stir in the cilantro.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2010 9:13 pm

    Hi, Kath. I agree with you about Vij’s (and even went to a dinner party with Vikram and Meeru once…). The cookbook is a good one, too, but I’ve not made anything from it. Your version looks fantastic.



  2. September 21, 2010 7:55 am

    Oh wow, this looks DELICIOUS! Too bad I didn’t hear about Vij’s earlier, I was jsut in Vancouver a few weeks ago. But I know I’ll be back as I really loved it there… and I’d like to go during winter sometime. Thank you so much for this recipe – I’ve actually emailed it to myself to make sure that I don’t lose it 🙂 Have a great day!


    • September 21, 2010 2:42 pm

      Next time you go to Vancouver, Roxan, you must try Vij’s! Hope you enjoy this curry.

  3. September 21, 2010 8:36 am

    I saw this recipe in the Globe and Mail a couple years ago and it’s the base recipe for a couple of curries I now make. It’s fabulous!

  4. September 24, 2010 11:52 am

    Your photos of chicken curry looks delicious. I see that you use chicken thighs (bone in). What do you think of chicken curry made of boneless chicken thighs as shown at ? We would love to hear your comments.

    • September 24, 2010 12:47 pm

      Thanks for your comment, DGrub!

      I’m sure the original recipe calls for thighs with bones because the bones do add a bit more flavor. But, honestly, I think it would be just as good if you prefer to use boneless chicken thighs.

      By the way, your Spicy Chicken Curry looks great!

  5. September 24, 2010 12:48 pm

    I find that the meat (and skin) add to the flavour and tearing off the meat afterward is worth the effort.

    • September 24, 2010 12:58 pm

      It’s really not that much effort, is it Dan? I tend to agree with you. I leave the skin on for most recipes and have wondered why Vij’s family’s recipe calls for removing it. Perhaps the chicken can absorb more of the flavors without the skin? I appreciate your input!

  6. Bob permalink
    February 19, 2012 9:56 pm

    I made this tonight and it was great.
    It’s a keeper!
    Thanks Bob

  7. May 28, 2012 1:13 am

    i made this recipe tonight was soooooooooooooooooooo good!!! i did however put a few tablespoons af brown sugar into mine 😉 eill be making this again 😉

  8. March 2, 2013 8:06 pm

    oddly enough,,, i don’t see curry listed as an ingedient

    • March 3, 2013 7:46 am

      Hi Janice,
      “Curry” is a generic term for a blend of spices used to make the dishes we call curries. Commercially blended curry powders can be purchased, but in India and southeast Asia cooks use their own blends. In this curry the spices – cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala (which is also a blend of spices), and cayenne – are the spices that Vij’s mother used to create her chicken curry.
      Thanks for your comment! Others may have wondered about that, too.

  9. March 10, 2013 11:57 am

    can’t wait to try this recipe.

  10. hegesias permalink
    April 15, 2013 4:21 pm

    Good recipe. Thanks.

    • April 16, 2013 6:44 am

      Glad to know you liked it!

      • Alan permalink
        July 24, 2013 5:18 pm

        I am going to try this recipe at the weekend as I am still searching for THE ONE and I hope this is it. I tried a Sanjeev kapoor curry last week that called for 2 tbsp of cumin powder and 2 tbsp coriander powder but it turned out with that bitter too much cumin aftertaste.

        • July 25, 2013 7:06 am

          Hope you like this one, Alan! I’d love to hear how it works for you.

  11. Dale permalink
    August 11, 2013 12:07 pm

    Hi. Just made this curry. I am happy with the end result, followed the recipe exactly. I don’t know if its just me but I am sort of getting a tiny sour aftertaste, like I added too much jeera powder. I sprinkled in some sugar and it took it away. Did I read it correctly? 1 tbsp cumin? Will I get away with adding just half a tbsp of cumin next time? Thanks

    • August 11, 2013 12:28 pm

      Hi Dale. I had never heard of jeera, so I looked it up and see that it’s a mixture of ground cumin and ground coriander. So if you used a tablespoon of jeera instead of cumin and also used a tablespoon of ground coriander, it may have been a bit too much coriander. I’m just guessing here.

      I just double-checked the recipe in Vij’s: Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine and Vikram does indeed use 1 tablespoon of ground cumin and 1 tablespoon of ground coriander, but you should definitely adjust it to suit your taste. That was a great idea to balance it with a bit of sugar!

      • Dale permalink
        August 11, 2013 12:41 pm

        Hi sorry. I am a British Asian, I am used to the way my mother speaks lol.. Jeera is just the Urdu word for cumin, not a mixture of cumin and coriander. I will just add less cumin next time I make this recipe.. Thanks

  12. Maria permalink
    September 4, 2013 3:24 am

    Can I not use sour cream? or something else more healthy instead?

    • September 4, 2013 6:20 am

      Vikram Vij’s mom used sour cream to make it richer for his cafe. Since this is a special curry that I usually make for company, I do use the sour cream. But Vikram says in the cookbook that you can simply omit the sour cream for a lighter curry. Thanks for your question, Maria!


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