Vij’s Family’s Chicken Curry
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)
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.
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.
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.)