Happy Thursday great foodie friends.
I wanted to share my experience at an event I was l honored to be invited to. #VikramsTour
The very second that you meet Vikram you are captured by his stories, words and demeanor. Vikram is the true balance of being genuinely humble but so charismatic and colorful at the same time.
You quickly realize that this magnate is true example of hard work and true proof that you should never look at a mountain as too high to climb.
In 1994 Vikram and team under his wife and fellow chef Meeru Dhalwala opened their first restaurant in Vancouver- Vij’s – a 14 seat flavor and aroma wonder that hit the Vancouver culinary scene with truly traditional Indian cuisine. You can never equate Vikram’s style of cooking as main stream or faddy but rather a true reflection of the unique flavors of his homeland. Flavors and recipes simply from his grandparents, parents and family friends kitchens and true to the ancient heritage and routes of genuine and regional flavors.
Vikram started our tour of his Vij’s at Home take home curries in Langley with several food writers, media and the film crew of Dragons Den. If you haven’t heard yet Vikram will be one of the two new Dragons!
Vikram definitely captures the attention of the group while passionately describing his first steps on the property in 2007 and how important it was to maintain the natural lands he was building on by minimizing the impact of the build out. Vikram also spent countless hours looking at different options to build
back into this new building and opted for a “green” roof and investing in the structural engineering to accommodate that. If you see the building from the air, it would almost look like green space!
We now started our education of Vikram’s at Home and the aromas gently greet you upon entering the building.
One issue that Vikram stayed focused on like a laser was how to preserve the unique and beautiful flavors through the large batching, processing and packaging process. He wants to ensure that when we open the package at home that your kitchen would fill with the tastes aromas and flavors that were intended to show!
Pasteurizing is a typical and lower cost option to preserve the food but can’t ensure that the product would taste the way Vikram wanted it be. Vikram looked at another option that worked just right! Blast freezer
By taking the product from 80 degrees to 4, then minus 32 within approx 35 minutes it preserves the unique flavors and quality that Vikram strives for.
All that said what you quickly notice is that even though you are in a food factory and expect complete automation you will see that the important part of Vikram’s secret weapon is to continue to infuse the passion and love into each and every package through many hand made processes.
The spices are still roasted traditionally and manually every week, and many of the ingredients are still hand cut.
After a great education and reassuring confirmation that this truly respected chef that believes in the same exact core values that I have always believed and found on my culinary journey – “Get in the kitchen and cook, but do it with smiles in your heart, love, soul and passion and it will surely show in your food” Food doesn’t define us necessarily but it does connect us to family, friends and new friends. Even in a “commercial” application of Vikram’s food, this key ingredient is not overlooked.
The tour wrapped up in Chef Vikram’s office and some more intriguing stories of his days gone past.
Now off to My Shanti, Vikram’s new eatery in South Surrey. Being that I live in the area I was thrilled to see this flavour train arrive and bring a new twist to the restaurant scene in South Surrey.
From the moment you turn the corner to look for My Shanti, it’s right front an centre and not easy to miss! In True Vikram Vij style the outside of the restaurant is unique and not like any other in the area.
It really is a preview to the wonderment that the diner is about to experience once inside.
Attention to every detail of what Vikram’s wants you to experience is seen everywhere. A successful entrepreneur knows that in these complicated times you don’t win the battle of patrons with a good this or that, but rather you do win when you create an
, a whole feeling from start to finish to relax yet entertain you.
Vikram had this hand woven and hand painted mural commissioned in India specifically for My Shanti
The Tree Of Life
is made from one piece and fills nearly the whole wall that you see once you enter the dining room!
The dining room is comfortable and welcoming leaving you relaxed and ready to experience a culinary flavour ride from Vikram’s kitchen.
Vikram has a unique awareness of balance and humility always recognizing those who are on his culinary journey of life always recognizing that he couldn’t do it or be successful without his awesome team.
The food at My Shanti is unique to traditional Indian fare, not like the North American perception of Westernized Indian dishes. The quality of ingredients is evident and the care in preparing the dishes is present in the depth of flavours, textures and unique presentation.
The dishes we tried were all unique and truly had depth in flavours to set you up thinking what is next!? To truly enjoy Vikram’s new concept restaurant you must go for a great dinner where you will be taken care of his staff who is there to help guide you through the beautiful dishes that Vikarm and his culinary team have created. The attention to detail is evident and furthermore you are likely to have the smiling face of Chef Vikram or Bena drop by your table to ensure that they see you are enjoying the experience. You are not going solely to eat but rather to have a culinary experience- sight, smells, tastes and all around experience.
Take a look at the wonderful bar that Vikram has created that has chosen to serve real drinks from days gone past and new creations all made by hand with fresh ingredients and in the style of “Speak Easy” concoctions rather than the premixed versions you so often find in many other spots.
Do you recall that I mentioned Dragons Den ?
Well in case you hadn’t heard Vikram Vij is one of the new Dragons and will surely be as entertaining with his passion and colourful demeanour in the den as he is in the kitchen.
We are thrilled to have Vikram’s My Shanti in South Surrey and look forward to many great dinners to come.
Remember that just like all of Vikram’s retsuarants- they don’t take reservations, it is first come first serve and true to Vikram’s belief that we all are created equal.
Happy Fall / Winter days great foodie friends,
I wanted to share with you my experience at the latest Edible Canada’s Guest Chef Market dinner – all of their events bring you closer to a great array of talented culinary masters within their respective field, but some guest chefs are so popular that in order to fairly allow for the best opportunity for you to attend the event, Edible Canada is forced to put the ticket purchase process to a lottery style.
Chef Vikram Vij is absolutely one of those highly popular draws and rightly so. I was lucky enough to win one of the coveted tickets for 2 and had the pleasure of attending this wonderful event.
Our city has become a veritable cultural melting pot of culinary offerings from around the world.
The Market dinners are done “just right” with a warm welcome, almost like they are inviting you into their kitchen or living room. You are greeted with a nice house developed sip to start your event.
One can’t fully describe the wonderful blend of complex flavors and textures as they unfold with each bite but let’s just say that these two appetizers were both different in the flavor profile but at the same time made you want another please!
What you see unfold right away is the true passion and personality that Chef Vikram has and what a storyteller / entertainer he is.
I have always maintained that you eat with your eyes and your nose before it crosses the lips, but you cook with your heart and your soul (Basically or actually a love and passion for what you are doing) and it will show through your food. Vikram definitely believes this theory and trust me it showed all night!
After we had time to settle in, Vikram introduced himself and laid out how the evening was going to unfold. Then he says “Come cook with me” and invites us all around the kitchen island.
One thing I must tell you is that I have never met such a bright personality who displays a total humility and thankfulness for what has graced his life. He was very complimentary of his two sous chefs that assisted (actually Guided Vikram somewhat…shhhhh) him through the night and complimented his whole team as they are the ones that makes the magic happen for the Vij’s and Rangoli restaurant family everyday.
To say that the room started to fill with aromas beyond “wow” is an understatement. Chef Vikram did mention that true Indian cooking is full of personal nuance differences but is mostly “In your face” with powerful and delectable flavors.
First up was Coconut Masala Prawns
As the bountiful flavours danced across your taste buds you could only hear a silence except for the veiled “mmmm” sound from many.
Vikram used local spot prawns along with his house-made spices and herbs to create a winner for our first dish.
Edible Canada has some great knowledge in how to pair wines with the guest chefs dishes, and Joiefarm. Noble Blend was paired perfectly with the prawns.
Next up Vikram says “Come cook my family chicken with me” – as a side note Chef Vikram tells us of his upbringing and trips back home. Another belief surrounding great chefs is that your dish should be a reflection of you. To explain further, everyone has their own style and it will show in a slight difference in your dish. Vikram would explain that within family and friends that you will always have an auntie or friend that makes the “best” traditional curry chicken but as it should be, it will be their “own” no measurements, no recipe, just passed on through tribal knowledge and made uniquely your way. “This is a good thing and how it should be”
You might try Vikrams family masala or curried chicken and say that it wasn’t like the one that you tried before at another eatery, and that’s just how he likes it ! You will note that when you visit Vij’s or Rangoli that you won’t see the cliché dishes that are at almost all Indian restaurants, but rather signature family dishes that scream Vij. Vikram still takes trips back home and visits as many different homes and restaurants as possible to see and learn about the different twists on traditional dishes, he embraces the uniqueness with open arms.
Our final savour dish was Cinnamon Stewed Lamb Curry – the flavors that Vikram and his team were able to develop from scratch in a few short hours were “Out of this world! The depth of colour and flavor in each dish with fantastic and delectable.
The lamb dish was served with fresh naan bread for over the top dipping fun! Vikram invited guests to try their hand and proclaimed that this very technique was how they made naan in his restaurants.
After all of our deep rich flavoured dishes, a perfect dessert was served to cleanse the palat, Rice pudding with silver leaf
A great fresh dish that slowed your palate down to clean finish.
Who is Vikram?:
Vikram Vij – Born in India and raised in New Dlehi & Bombay. Vikram moved to Canada in 1984 to work at the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta. (Chef Vikram culinary training is from Salzburg, Austria where he took hotel management, chefs training and became a certified sommelier) in 1994 Vikram and his wife Meeru opened their first restaurant -Vij’s in Vancouver BC. And then in 2002 Meeru and Vikram opened their second restaurant and market called Rangoli. In 2010 Vikram began selling Vij’s gourmet curries now selling across Canada including at Edible Canada!
Vikram has co-written 2 cookbooks and has just received the Enroute people’s choice award for his Latest successful venture – Vij’s Railway Express food truck – awarded as “Best new restaurant”. Vikram has also been a guest judge on Top Chef Canada as well as recently named as one of the judges on Recipe to Riches.
The accolades are countless and certainly there are so many more to come.
Vikram will not tell you about his accolades but if you ask him you will get a humble and warm smile for mentioning it!
Edible Canada Guest Market chef dinners are over the top fun and full of great food. The Chef line up is amazing and diverse so there will sure to be a dinner that you would want to sign up for!
This is my 4th market dinner and surely not my last!
You can find the market dinner listing through Edible Canada’s web site by clicking the link below.
Thank you Edible Canada for the continued support of Local products and for finding unique and heartwarming culinary journeys for your foodie friends.
You Gotta Try This!