Vij’s Family’s Chicken Curry

Happy new year, guys! Technically it’s still a new-ish year, yes? Even though now suddenly it’s almost the end of January? Apologies again for the radio silence – I’m working on some new design tweaks here, or have hired some fine folks to as it’s one of the many things I’m almost completely clueless about, and of course there have been obstacles to be sorted out. Nothing seems to be as straightforward as it is in my mind.

Vij's Family's Chicken Curry

Except! This chicken curry, which looks like it has a lot of ingredients, and I suppose technically it does, but once you get to know it, has a very satisfying routine to it: build a thick, brick red masala with oil (or ghee!), onions, ginger, garlic and spices, nestle in some chicken and let it simmer. Vij once told me that at his restaurant people complain with some regularity that “the curry isn’t the same as it was last time”, and he says “it’s not supposed to”, because it depends on the day, the ingredients, and most notably the mood of the cook. I think of this every time I make it – it has become my go-to chicken curry, something I make with some regularity, no matter what form of chicken I have around.

When W was little, we’d pick up a deli roasted chicken, pull off the meat, give the steamy, always rubbery skin to Lou and the drumsticks to W, and the rest went into this curry. Which meant no cooling and pulling of meat off the bone, which isn’t at all a hastle, but sometimes you just want to eat it right away. Like all curries, however, it does benefit from some time, whether it be an hour or so of cooling down and reheating time, or a day or two hanging out in the fridge.

This is his family’s curry recipe, and he also tells a story about his mom making it in his apartment for take-out before the restaurant opened, and of her making a big batch of it and bringing the pot on the bus to a business meeting of some sort – to convince the bank to give them a loan for the restaurant? I can’t recall, but the image of his mom on the bus (subway?) with a pot of this curry in her lap always makes me grin inside.

Vij’s Family’s Chicken Curry


January 28, 2019


1/4 cup canola oil (original calls for 1/2 cup—I also like using ghee)

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 cinnamon stick

4-5 garlic cloves, crushed

2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

2 large chopped tomatoes (or a similar quantity of diced canned tomatoes)

1 tsp salt, plus more to taste

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 Tbsp ground cumin

1 Tbsp ground coriander

1 Tbsp garam masala

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cayenne (or to taste)

2-3 lbs chicken thighs, with skin and bone

1 cup sour cream (not low fat)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro (including stems)


1Set a large, heavy skillet or braising dish over medium-high heat and add the oil; heat for a minute or two before adding the onions and cinnamon stick; sauté for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, tomatoes, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, garam masala, turmeric and cayenne. Cook the masala for 5 minutes, or until the oil separates from the masala. (I like adding a bunch of chopped cilantro stems here too.)

2Remove and discard the chicken skin and add the bone-in thighs to the masala. Stir to coat them well and cook for 10 minutes, until the chicken looks cooked on the outside. Add the sour cream and a cup of water and bring to a simmer, stirring well. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the cinnamon stick and set aside to cool slightly.

3When the chicken is cool enough to handle, peel the meat off the bones, discard the bones and stir the chicken back into the curry. Refrigerate or reheat right away, stirring in the cilantro just before serving. Serves 6.


About Julie

17 comments on “Vij’s Family’s Chicken Curry

  1. Mark Filmer
    January 29, 2019 at 8:04 am

    This was delicious, as we are using thighs I keep it simmering away for another 30 mins, it just gets richer in flavour.. Yummo..

  2. Lori
    January 29, 2019 at 9:19 pm

    So, um, how is this not butter chicken?

    • Julie
      January 30, 2019 at 11:34 am

      Just a different flavour profile. Butter chicken tends to be milder, sweeter and smoother.

      • Ashly Case
        November 5, 2019 at 7:07 am

        So, um, how do you deal with snide people so politely?

  3. carol s-b
    February 3, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    I am so happy to see this!
    I love it when you write about Vij… OK, fine.
    I love it when you write about dang near anything. 🙂

    • Julie
      February 3, 2019 at 9:43 pm

      Aw, you’re the sweetest! <3

  4. Darby
    February 15, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    So good! I made it with skinless boneless thighs because that’s what I had.

  5. happy life
    February 16, 2019 at 3:31 am

    Looks so delicious. I’m gonna cook it.

  6. AMykes
    February 24, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    Not sure what happened… mine turned out really light in colour 🙁 I never got that dark, brick red tone. I used a large can of diced tomatoes to replace the chopped fresh ones, do I just need to brown the onions and spices longer maybe??

    • Julie
      February 28, 2019 at 7:01 pm

      Interesting! perhaps a bit of both? those browned bits do a lot for the sauce!

  7. Christina
    March 18, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    I already ate lunch, yet I saw this and it felt like I never had. Haha.
    Looks utterly delish.

  8. Grilliam
    December 19, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    Tried this recipe, but without ginger.
    As a side dish used baked potatoes with herbs.
    The taste is incredible!

  9. Andy
    December 20, 2019 at 6:07 pm

    Yum! Delicious for dinner, served on whole grain basmati. Our son, visiting from Vancouver, home of Vij and his restaurants, made this tonight, and we may have to duke it out tomorrow for leftovers. I’ve saved this recipe for another cold winter day’s dinner. Thanks for the post and recipe, Julie.

  10. David Riehm
    December 27, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    I have made this recipe many times from Vij’s cookbook with bone-in thighs.
    Takes more work but I am a slave to the recipe!
    Always fantastic and better the second day (if there’s any left).
    I live in Vancouver and Vij is a great guy.
    David Riehm

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