Last night with some friends, my husband and I went our for dinner to our mutually favourite restaurant, Vij's. If any one is familiar with Vij's they may know where this post is going. A little over a year ago Vikram Vij added something to the menu that caused a bit of a stir, crickets.
I have heard that it was his wife Meeru Dhalwala that was behind this push, she wanted to introduce a dish that would utilize a local sustainable alternative protein. She points out in a June 08 article for the Vancouver Sun, that crickets are similar to prawns and lobsters sharing the distinction of arthropods.- Who knew?
The crickets are roasted and ground into a flour that is then used to make spicy indian styled flatbread called a paranta. The paranta is paired with a tomato-cumin chutney, and celeriac salad. The moisture and acid from the tomatoes and crisp texture of the celeriac add a nice contrast to the flakey crunch of the bread.
The fist time I had this dish I was dining alone. It arrived with a side of roasted crickets that stared apathetically away from me as I ate (maybe they were trying not to be noticed). I devoured the bread, ladled on the chutney and salad but couldn't get over the ick factor enough try a whole cricket. I tried logic: I ate the bread the bread was good ergo the crickets would be good. My meal eventually ended and the crickets were still on the table. I suspect that this was the case for many diners, enjoying the bread but not wanting to look at what they were eating, so the crickets all but forgotten were left in the kitchen until requested.
Last night was the second time I ordered spicy parantha, as it is an appetizer it makes a good sharing dish and armed with a couple of other brave souls we decided to bite the bullet and try a whole cricket. When it arrived, it was without the tiny arthropods, if I hadn't had this dish once before I wouldn't have thought to ask about them. Without hesitation the server brought a tiny mound of roasted crickets trapped in a ceramic dish, my table mates and I all looked to one another for courage. Sensing hesitation I picked out a nicely darken specimen and popped it into my mouth. I was....surprisingly underwhelmed. It was crunchy from the roasting and slightly grassy but had no other discernible attributes.
If you like Indian styled cuisine Vij's is guaranteed to never disappoint and the spicy paranta with or without the whole roasted crickets lives up to those expectations.
1480 W.11th Ave
drawing by me.