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Dining in Vancouver: A Passage to India

From modest curry houses to more upscale dining rooms, Vancouver's Indian restaurants reflect the increasingly varied nature of the city's South Asian community, offering regional specialties from across India.

The Punjabi Market neighborhood, at Main Street and 49th Avenue, is a long-established "Little India" that was populated largely by migrants from northwest India. While many newer Indo-Canadian immigrants have settled outside Vancouver, in Surrey and other suburbs, the Punjabi Market is still worth a visit for its jewelry stores, sari shops, and—naturally—restaurants.

Two long-standing eateries, Original All India Sweets (6507 Main St. 604/327–0891) and Himalaya Restaurant (6587 Main St. 604/324–6514) serve traditional Punjabi dishes and vast, well-priced buffets.

Himalaya Restaurant (6587 Main St., Vancouver, BC, V5X 3H1. 604/324–6514.)

All India Sweets & Restaurant (6507 Main St., Vancouver, BC, V5X 3H1. 604/327–0891. www.allindiasweetsrestaurant.com.)

Around Vancouver, around India

To explore the food of Indian regions other than the Punjab, you'll need to venture farther afield. There's no one neighborhood in Vancouver proper that will satisfy all your Indian cravings, but Bus no. 19 between Stanley Park and Metrotown stops near all of the following restaurants.

Chutney Villa. For south Indian fare, with its dosa (rice and lentil pancakes), idli (steamed rice cakes), and seafood and coconut curries, try this comfortably classy dining room. 147 E. Broadway, west of Main St., Main St./Mt. Pleasant, Vancouver, BC, V5T 1W1. 604/872–2228. www.chutneyvilla.com.

House of Dosas. If you're a big dosa fan, it's worth the trek to this modest spot where the specialty is massive—and massively tasty—versions of this South Indian classic. 1391 Kingsway, at Knight St., East Side, Vancouver, BC, V5V 3E3. 604/875–1283. www.houseofdosas.ca.

Some members of Vancouver's Indian community have their roots in Africa, particularly Uganda, and this cultural mix has created additional dining options.

Jambo Grill. At the cheerful Jambo Grill, you can pair the first-rate tandoori chicken or spicy grilled ribs with addictive mogo (cassava fries), curries, or masala fish. 3219 Kingsway, East Side, Vancouver, BC, V5R 5K3. 604/433–5060. www.jambogrill.ca.

Fine dining, Indian-style

When Vikram Vij opened his eponymous restaurant in the mid-1990s, Vij's shook up the Vancouver food scene. This contemporary South Asian dining room that paired traditional flavors and techniques with local produce and ingredients was unique in Canada, and indeed in North America. Vij's is still going strong—waits of over an hour for a table at this no-reservations spot are routine—and now Vij and his wife Meeru Dhalwala also run the more casual Rangoli next door.

Where India Meets China

With Vancouver's large Indian and Chinese communities, perhaps it's no surprise to find food that fuses the fare of these two nations. Two restaurants on Vancouver's East Side serve Indian-style Chinese dishes, where the sweet, sour, and hot tastes of India and China come together. For many South Asians, this hybrid cuisine is comfort food, akin to the chop suey and ginger beef served at old-style Chinese-American or Chinese-Canadian eateries.

Green Lettuce. At Green Lettuce, you'll find paneer (cheese) in ginger sauce, chili chicken, Manchurian cauliflower, and crispy hot-and-spicy tofu. 1949 Kingsway, East Side, Vancouver, BC, V5N 2T1. 604/876–9883. www.greenlettucerestaurant.com. No lunch Sat.–Tues.

Chili Pepper House. At the popular Chili Pepper House, the menu ranges from hot and sour soup to okra and potato curry to Hakka-style vegetable chow mein. 3003 Kingsway, East Side, Vancouver, BC, V5R 5J6. 604/431–8633. www.chilipepperhouse.com. No lunch weekends.

Diwali

Vancouver in the fall means Diwali (www.vandiwali.ca), the South Asian festival of lights celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains around the world. The festival showcases Indian music and dance; vendors sell Indian food; and community centers offer Indian craft workshops in sari wrapping and henna application. Restaurants and snack shops in the Punjabi Market district sell colorful holiday sweets.

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