Star of India

6 May

Canada’s best Indian restaurants have a new take-out item, Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey. Meeru Dhalwala talks to Reader’s Digest contributor Dominique Ritter about her culinary inspirations, cooking with her kids and the recipe for working with and loving her husband Vikram Vij.

Why do you think people have so keenly embraced your restaurants and cuisine?
It’s a combination of two things. First, there’s my husband. He’s there every night and he really, really loves what he does. He still dresses up at 4:30 every day like he’s going to a cocktail party. Vikram is the most gracious host I’ve ever come across. The second element is our unique cuisine that I created to represent all of India, without being limited by traditional boundaries.

If I ever get sick of my husband, because we work together and am thinking, “oh my God, look, he’s gained ten pounds” and all that stuff you think after being married for 16 years, all I have to do is go to Vij’s for dinner. And I just watch him in action and I think, wow, I’m so lucky.

What are some of the ideas and characteristics that you’ve imported from your travels in India into your own home?
I do things by hand: I make my own paneer (fresh cheese) and clarify my own ghee, because I can see the difference between homemade versus store-bought. And in India, they teach their young children to cook, and they see cooking as an act of nurturing. I do too. I’m interested in taking back the joy of nurturing ourselves and nurturing our families.

What’s the difference in attitude?
Well for us here, Tuesday night means Glee’s on! And we all go the television at 8 o’clock. And you’ll find in India, people are like that about dinner… it’s a family event.

You have two daughters, what are some of their favourite foods?
Rajma Chawal, which is kidney beans and rice. That’s both my daughters’ favourite – which is funny because it was also my sister’s and my favourite dish when we were growing up. It’s basically the Indian version of chilli and rice. Their other favourite is butter chicken schnitzel.

What does somebody new to Indian cooking need to get started?
Here are the three basic spices that people should get: turmeric, cumin and coriander. And I really do recommend a thing called the Ziplock bag. On a Sunday afternoon, just chop up your onions and tomatoes and garlic and put them in Ziplock bags in your fridge, then they’re ready to go.

What do you feel is the single most important message of your new cookbook?
That all families and households are fundamentally the same. Money, class – it doesn’t matter. It’s in our hands to make one another happy through food.

Vij’s at Home, Relax Honey: The Warmth and Ease of Indian Cooking, by Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij. Douglas & McIntyre, $40.

2 Responses to “Star of India”

  1. M C Lambert May 8th, 2011 at 8:31 PM #

    Beautiful entry. Looking forward to reading the book.

  2. Joy May 9th, 2011 at 7:54 PM #

    Great article and what a lovely lady. Met Vikram once he is quite the character. Great food and great people.

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