Recipe: Vij’s Family’s Chicken Curry

I’ve somehow never been to Vij’s, the uber-popular Vancouver restaurant on West 11th Avenue that some swear has the best Indian cuisine in North America. I’ve tried, but there have been long line-ups every time, and I’m not the most patient person when I’m hungry. I get hungry-angry. Hangry.

A while back I came across a recipe for Vij’s Family Chicken Curry, from Vickram Vij and his wife Meeru Dhalwala’s cookbook, Vij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine. I made it over the weekend and it is my new favourite recipe in recent memory. Dee-lish. Not having been to the restaurant, I don’t know how this fares in comparison, but until I do go, I’m pretty damn happy with this.

Below is their recipe, with my photos and notes.

Minutes to Prepare: 15
Minutes to Cook: 60
Number of Servings: 6


1/2 cup canola oil (I used coconut oil)
2 cups finely chopped onions
3-inch stick of cinnamon
3 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp chopped ginger
2 cups chopped tomatoes (2 large, or one 28-ounce can, drained)
1 tbsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper (Very mild. I upped it to about 1.5 tsp)
1.4 kilos chicken thighs, bone in (I used 8 thighs)
1 cup sour cream, stirred

2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (including stems)
Rice (if you’re serving it with rice) 

Some people are turned off to recipes that require a million dashes of something because they feel it’s not worth it to have to buy all these individuals herbs and spices. Thing is, once you have them, you’ll be a lot more inclined to try future recipes that require them as well. Trussst me. If you’re still reluctant, you can buy small quantities from the bulk sections of grocery stores.

One more thing: I used coconut oil instead of canola oil because of my colleague’s neat losing-fat-by-eating-fat diet, which she wrote about here. She gave me a container of coconut oil to try, and I figured this would be the perfect dish to use it in, since coconut tastes excellent in curries.

On to the recipe: Get all your stuff chopped, measured and ready first:

Cinnamon, onion

Ginger, garlic

Salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala, cayenne pepper

In a large pan, heat oil on medium heat for one minute. Add onions and cinnamon and sauté for five to eight minutes, until onions are golden. Add garlic and sauté for four more minutes.

Add ginger, tomatoes, salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala and cayenne. (Sifting spices/powders into a recipe, like so, will prevent clumps.) Cook the masala for five minutes, until the oil separates. While that magic is happening, remove the skin from the chicken thighs. (Removing something as delicious as chicken skin hurts my heart, but it’s just not usable in this recipe.)

Add chicken thighs and cook for 10 minutes, until the chicken looks cooked on the outside. Add sour cream and water and stir well. Increase the heat to medium-high. When curry starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring two or three times, until chicken is completely cooked. (Mine was closer to 20 minutes.) While you’re waiting, this is a good time to make your rice (if you’re serving it with rice) and chop up the cilantro.

Check to see that the chicken’s cooked through, either with a thermometer (165 F is the magic temp for chicken), or by cutting into one and making sure there’s no pink. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Cool curry for at least half an hour.

Vij’s recipe now calls for you to transfer the chicken to a mixing bowl and, wearing latex gloves, peel the chicken meat off the bones. I don’t have a bunch of latex gloves at home, and I’d be suspicious of anyone who does. I just washed my hands, picked up the chicken, picked off the meat, returned it to the pan and discarded the bones. I guess the key things here are to make sure your curry’s no longer hot, and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards, lest you rub curry into your eye.

Just before serving, heat curry on medium heat until it starts to boil lightly. Stir in cilantro and serve with rice. Garnish with a cinnamon stick or two if you’re feeling fancy.


  1. Tried this. It came out perfectly. I never follow recipes exactly, but I did this time, since I had everything (and because I trust anything from Vij).

    By the way, even though you tend to get hangry—as do I—go to Vij’s. They feed you snacks while you wait, so it’s not too bad. Have the lamb popsicles. It’s my favourite meal in the city.

    1. This is what friends keep telling me. I will definitely try it out sooner or later. You had me at “lamb popsicles.”

  2. Yes, the atmosphere at Vij’s while you wait is like being at a cocktail party – chatting with friends, having drinks, and snacking on tasty tidbits. My husband, who gets “hangry” (love that word) faster than anyone I know, even puts up with the wait.

    Your photos are gorgeous!

  3. I am curious as to why this recipe calls for sour cream instead of yogurt, which is traditional in Indian cooking. Would it work just as well to use yogurt instead?

  4. Hello! This was a random Internet find- and what a find it was! I’m one of those folks that has an entire cupboard dedicated to spices, so everything listed was right there, waiting to happen. I absolutely adore this recipe-I follow it to the letter minus the chicken: I’ve used boneless/skinless chicken breasts (roughly chopped) with divine results. It turns out beautiful everytime, and just like any good curry, soup or stew, tastes better the next day (hurray delicious leftovers!).
    ~Canadian in Austin, TX

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