One of the similarities between food and music is that they are both subjective - it's all up to interpretation based on your likes and dislikes. That's why I don't understand the need to standardize food.
When people have dinner at my house, they know the meal will taste different than at somebody else's house.
Likewise, I believe that restaurants should also be an extension of a chef's personality - especially if you have your name on it.
Perhaps if I'd called my restaurant Cuisine of India or Taj Mahal, customers might expect a generic style of food.
But by naming the restaurant Vij's, I am making the statement that we are serving our own unique style of food and flavours.
They are dishes we would feel good about sharing with friends. Serving food we feel good about is even more important these days, given the celebrity status of chefs.
There are many reasons for this phenomenon, including the rise of cooking shows on television and people's growing awareness about what they eat.
The flipside to all this attention is that chefs must handle themselves with dignity and grace, and they have to make sure they are still delivering a memorable experience.
If I had known 14 years ago that the restaurant would be so popular, maybe I would have done things differently.
Perhaps I would have opened a 300-seat restaurant and taken reservations and had hostesses and table sections.
But I would not have been able to give my undivided personal attention to the food, the wine list and the customers.
Of course, you don't have to be a celebrity chef to add your personal touch to your cooking.
And you don't need professional training to entertain at home.
You can watch food shows, read cookbooks and take classes. All it takes is confidence and a sense of fun.
(It's also cheaper than dining out.)
Here's a fun recipe that doesn't require too much time to put together.
Pan-fried salmon potato cakes
What you need 1 tablespoon coriander seeds 1 egg 1 pound fresh or tinned wild salmon 1/2 pound boiled and mashed russet potato or a little more 1/4 pound boiled and mashed yam 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/3 cup finely chopped onions 1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno peppers 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped cilantro 11/2 tablespoons garam masala or 1 tablespoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon ajwain seeds 1 tablespoon salt 1/2 cup canola oil for pan frying
What you do Lightly pound coriander seeds in a mortar or on a plate with a heavy spoon. (You just want to break the seeds in half.) Set aside.
Beat the egg in a small bowl.
If you are using fresh salmon, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Immerse salmon and cook for five minutes. Remove from the heat, drain and allow the salmon to cool. Peel off the skin.
Thoroughly combine all ingredients except the oil in a large mixing bowl.
With your hands, form round cakes about two inches in diameter and one inch thick. Set them on a baking tray.
Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a shallow nonstick frying pan on high heat.
Once the oil is hot, reduce the heat to medium so the cakes don't stick to the bottom of the pan or burn.
Place two cakes in the pan and cook for two to three minutes. Turn the cakes over and cook for another two to three minutes. The cakes should be brown and crispy on both sides.
Repeat, using one tablespoon of the oil for each two cakes, until all the cakes are cooked.
Serve the cakes as they are done, or keep warm on a plate in the oven.
Chutney makes a nice accompaniment.
Vikram Vij is owner and chef of Vij's in Vancouver
Beppi's wine matches
Look for a white wine with substantial body, fruitiness and crisp finish. A New World chardonnay, such as Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay from British Columbia ($17.99), would be nice. Other good options include riesling, pinot blanc, pinot gris and viognier. From B.C., consider Red Rooster Riesling ($15.99). From France, there's Leon Beyer Pinot Gris ($16.25 in Ontario).
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