Spicy recipes for food and life
September 29th, 2016
They started their first restaurant in 1994, opened a second one ten years later and began writing cookbooks in 2006 published by Douglas & McIntyre. Now, with a new Toronto publisher, Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij (pictured at right) have released a third cookbook, Vij’s Indian: Our Stories, Spices and Cherished Recipes (Penguin Random House $35).
Just in time for the Christmas shopping crowd, this collection features 80 new recipes such as cumin-spiced onions, chickpea and sprouted lentil cakes, grilled squash, sugar-roasted beets, vegetable koftes with creamy tomato curry, and green and black cardamom cream chicken curry. But the book also has family stories, sections on Indian spices and wine pairings for the Indian recipes, and meal pairings. Consider assorted mushrooms and winter squash curry paired with brown rice and yellow channa daal pilaf. Or clay pot saffron chicken and rice paired with sprouted lentil, bell pepper and carrot salad.
In its 7-page introduction Vij’s Indian intertwines family food stories with juicy stories about family dynamics. Are Vij and Meeru divorced? It’s hard to tell as they continued to share daily family meals in the same house even when Vij moved into a separate apartment. And of course the pair continue to run their restaurant, food business, and cookbook empire together.
Confusing? It was to their daughter Nanaki too, who, upon hearing her father had an apartment even though they would “remain a family”, asked: “Why are you both being so weird? Why can’t you do anything like normal parents? Why can’t you just say you’re splitting up instead of pretending you’re not?”
The family continues in the same household although oldest daughter Nanaki has moved to Montreal to attend McGill University. And Meeru spent a month with her ailing mother Omi, who suffered a series of strokes, to get her recipes, some of the “cherished recipes” in this cookbook.
All in all, the book is not just about making a meal, but about making a life too.
Born in India, raised in Amritsar and Mumbai, Vikram Vij studied hotel management in Salzburg, Austria before coming to Canada and opening his original 14-seat Vij’s restaurant in Vancouver in 1994 with his wife Meeru Dhalwala, born in India but raised in Washington, D.C.
Vij appears on many television shows, including CBC’s Dragons’ Den (about aspiring entrepreneurs pitching business ideas to venture capitalists) and regularly cooks for events including the foodie-esteemed James Beard Awards gala in New York. Meeru worked with international non-profits on human rights and international development projects before joining Vikram to start Vij’s Restaurant. The two received honorary doctorates from UBC and Simon Fraser University for their community work advancing Indian cuisine and promoting sustinable food practices and Indian culture.