The New York Times
Vij's at Home: Relax, Honey: The Warmth and Ease of Indian Cookingby Vikram Vij, Meeru Dhalwala
The team behind the world famous Vij’s and Rangoli restaurants in Vancouver have an approachable follow-up to their award-winning, bestselling cookbook Vij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine. The easily adaptable, versatile recipes in Vij's at Home are tailored for busy households like theirs./i>/i>/b>
As seen on the Today Show!
The team behind the world famous Vij’s and Rangoli restaurants in Vancouver have an approachable follow-up to their award-winning, bestselling cookbook Vij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine. The easily adaptable, versatile recipes in Vij's at Home are tailored for busy households like theirs. Meeru and Vikram share how to prepare flavorful vegetarian dishes that go from stove to plate in less than 45 minutes as well as easy Indian seafood, poultry and meat dishes that come together in 20 minutes then simmer while the home chef sits down with a glass of wine, or helps the kids with their homework. Interspersed throughout, the endearing couple share aspects of the home life of busy restaurateurs, who still manage to cook with their daughters, eat at the dining room table and throw parties for friends.
Pull up a chairMeeru and Vikram invite you to dinner.
The New York Times
"...it would be hard to imagine a warmer, more easygoing introduction to Indian cuisine in North America than the one put together by the Vancouver restaurateurs Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij in their Vij's at Home: Relax, Honey"Sam Sifton, The New York Times
"[Dhalwala and Vij] simplify Indian cooking for North American home cooks without sacrificing the integrity of the cuisine. ...A friendly, accessible book in which many cooks will delight. Recommended."Library Journal
"this cookbook underscores how simple Indian cooking can be and how attainable it can be even on busy weekdays if you've got the basic ingredients on hand."Portland Oregonian
“...easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world”Mark Bittman, The New York Times
"Vij’s is at once an excellent restaurant and a curious one, Indian without being doctrinaire about it, utopian without being political."Sam Sifton, New York Times Magazine
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Read an Excerpt
One Sunday evening before writing this book, we sat down with a bottle of wine and the goal of reflecting on what we wanted to write, why we wanted to write and just how much we wanted to share about our home. Instead we stared at one another in wonderment that, after almost fifteen years, we have managed to stay married, work together and still have fun together. Meeru wanted to turn the evening into a reflective therapy session, but Vikram said, “Relax, honey, and just enjoy right now.”
“Relax, honey” has been our phrase of survival. It’s our cue to each other that “All is fine and I still love you” or, in many cases, “I’m not mad at you anymore.” We don’t throw around this phrase carelesslywhichever one of us says it is the one who will take responsibility to help the other relax. That particular Sunday evening Vikram cooked dinner and made sure to include lots of vegetables in the lamb stew so that Meeru could actually relax with the knowledge that everyone was getting enough vitamins and fibre. (If Meeru had said “Relax, honey,” she would have made the lamb stew with lots of cream and potatoes for Vikram and served the vegetables on the side.)
Days or weeks will go by when neither Meeru nor Vikram has uttered the words “Relax, honey,” and the entire family knows that we’re working and functioning but not necessarily enjoying one another’s company. Sometimes, Meeru will wait for Vikram to say it first and Vikram will wait for Meeru, because neither of us wants to take the first step and make the effort. In such ruts, dinner is what always breaks the iceMeeru (or Vikram) will have come up with a brand-new recipe and is so excited to share it that she’ll say the words as he walks into the kitchen“Relax, honey. I made a really cool dinner tonight.”
For the first thirteen years of our marriage, we didn’t have a proper place to eat as a family. Our actual dining room served as a combination of Meeru’s office and a playroom so that she could work and be with our daughters, Nanaki and Shanik. The kitchen was crowded. There, we had an invisible, grey table for four, which exuded convenience but no leisure whatsoever. Although we always had Sunday- or Monday-night family meals, on most other nights Meeru would feed the girls an earlier dinner, and then she and Vikram would eat later. We also didn’t feel too guilty leaving that table and taking our dinner to the sofa in front of the television.
When we had dinner parties, either we would go through the hassle of emptying our kitchen and bringing in folding bridge tables and chairs (and covering them with tablecloths) or we would just ask our guests to eat with their plates on their laps. Usually there were pre-party marital arguments because Vikram always wanted to use Meeru’s desk as the dining table and Meeru pushed for people to use their laps.
Finally, two things happened. First, in the summer of 2007, Anthony Bourdain’s office phoned Vikram, telling him that they wanted to shoot part of the Vancouver episode of No Reservations, Bourdain’s culinary travel television show, at our home, with the featured Vancouver chefs eating and chatting around our dining table. It seems fair to assume that a chef would have a dining room. For an hour after Vikram informed them that we had no dining room and a crowded kitchen, he decided that this was all Meeru’s fault.
Meeru snapped back that we weren’t going to ruin our family set-up just for the sake of a tv show.
Second and most important, Nanaki and Shanik (121/2 and 10) were growing up and no longer needed a playroom or needed their mom to be near while she worked. They were also getting homework and discovering the joys of pop tv and music. The important toys went up to their bedrooms; Meeru’s desk and files also went upstairs into an alcove in the hallway, and we had an empty dining room.
So, we had a life-changing moment in the spring of 2008. We set up a dining room in our home and bought a dining table and chairs for eight people. To make this endeavour even more eventful, we spent beyond our savings and bought a dining set that was beautiful to look at and as comforting as a picnic table with duvet seats. We decided that after so many years without a proper eating space, and being in the food business, if there was one thing on which we could splurge, it was our dining room. We went all out and had sideboards, shelves and cupboards built into the room.
To sum up our personalities when it comes to food, it’s simple: Vikram is robust, while Meeru is thoughtful. This is how each of us shops, cooks and eats. To turn our crowded kitchen into a leisurely cooking place and to furnish a dining room in a way that reflected our complementaryyet sometimes clashingtraits was a treat. We felt like a newly married couple shopping for our new home. We would sneak out from the restaurants while the girls were at school and go dining-room shopping.
One day they came home from school to find the new family dining table, with two beaming parents showing off their latest joint achievement. What they didn’t realize at the time, while they stared at one another smiling as if they had crazy parents, was that our family culture was about to change dramatically.
Meet the Author
Vikram Vij was born in Indian and grew up in Amritsar and Mumbai. He studied hotel management in Salzburg, Austria, before moving to Canada to work at the Banff Springs Hotel. He opened the original 14-seat Vij's Restaurant in Vancouver in 1994.
Meeru Dhalwala was born in India but moved to Washington, D.C., at a young age. Prior to moving to Canada, she worked on human rights and international development projects. She and Vikram live in Vancouver.
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