IndusFresh Details

By TPCI | December 2, 2019

A non-vegetarian’s delight and a Punjabi’s pride, Butter chicken has today become one of the archetypes of Indian cuisine across the world. While it is commonly assumed that butter chicken owes a large part of its flavour heritage to the Mughals, in reality this man-made marvel has much more modest beginnings. Yes, you read that right! Butter chicken is not an embodiment of the goodwill of the bourgeoisie, but rather dates back to the pre-partition days.

The story of the birth of butter chicken goes back to a small dessert shop in Peshawar called Mukhey da Dhaba, owned by an elderly gentleman called Mokha Singh. With time, however, his health deteriorated and the deli was sold to Kundan Lal Gujral, who renamed it as Moti Mahal. Over time, the outlet earned popularity for its tandoori chicken. But the sheer wastage of unsold dry chicken pieces gave the makers of this dish a scope to play around with the pieces. Gujral thought that by adding a thick gravy prepared with butter, fresh cream, tomatoes and grounded spices to the dry pieces of tandoori chicken, the meat will regain its moisture and become soft & tender. But little would he have known that he was on the verge of inventing a phenomenal culinary extravaganza. And thus, the Butter Chicken was invented! During the Partition of India, Gujral moved to Delhi & so did his iconic shop.

Achieving the enticing aroma of Butter Chicken requires a proficient balance of spices & getting the velvety texture. Typically, a restaurant will marinate the chicken for hours in yogurt seasoned with spices like garlic, coriander, garam masala, ginger, cumin, and others. Then this piquant chicken is cooked (typically tandoori-style) and simmered in a mild curry sauce rich with butter, and in some cases, almonds and raisins as well.

According to experts, one also needs to be conscientious about not making the dish too sweet or salty as that spoils the USP of the dish. It comes down to maintaining the rich texture of butter and cream and an optimal balance of tanginess of tomatoes. To cut through the richness of this delicacy, it is best to serve butter chicken with a citrus-spiked condiment, such as raita. Its most ardent fans swear that butter chicken is at its best when paired with butter naan.

This succulent savoury meal lured an array of distinguished personalities from around the world. Zakir Hussain, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy – all lauded Moti Mahal and its succulent butter chicken, versions of which are now prepared by restaurants across the world. In modern times, the dish has found loyal patrons like Chef Gordon Ramsay.