Butter Chicken – A classical non-vegetarian Indian dish.
Butter Chicken is the most popular Indian dish in the world. From the streets of Delhi to the streets of London, wherever there is an Indian community, there will sure be a store/restaurant selling butter chicken. One can have butter Chicken with roti (which is a flatbread made from wholemeal), naan (leavened, oven-baked flatbread), rice or just by itself. Butter Chicken is a dish that brings out the sunny side in food lovers.
What is Butter Chicken?
Butter Chicken comprises succulent chicken pieces with a combination of cream, butter, tomatoes, and aromatic spices. Butter Chicken goes by the name of Murgha Makhani in India. We cook the chicken pieces in a tandoor which is a clay oven.
The spices include fresh garlic, coriander, ginger, red chilli powder, cardamom, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, pepper, garam masala and fenugreek (Punjabi/Hindi: kasuri methi). Chicken pieces need to be marinated for several hours with all the above ingredients in order for the Butter Chicken to be good. It can be served with cashews and almonds.
The Origins of Butter Chicken.
The origins of Butter Chicken are humble. Kundan Lal Gujral, Kundan Lal Jaggi, and Thakur Dass invented the dish. In Peshawar, British India (now in modern-day Pakistan), a man named Mokha Singh Lamba started a small restaurant.
The young inventor of Butter Chicken, Kundan Lal Gujral, worked at the restaurant as a chef. Gujral experimented with the tandoori chicken hanging from the tandoor.
In 1947, India endured a brutal partition where millions of people died and many people went missing. The partition displaced many people. India got separated into three parts, India, Pakistan, and East Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh).
Gujral, Jaggi, and Dass, fled Peshawar and went to Daryaganj, Delhi. The trio then started their own restaurant in Daryaganj, Delhi named the Moti Mahal, which was carried on from the original Moti Mahal in Peshawar. Mokha Singh Lamba – the owner of the original Moti Mahal in Peshawar – was too old to continue running a restaurant.
Lamba was happy for the trio to take care of the restaurant. The trio had a powerful bond because of the sufferings and hardships the trio endured during the years of partition.
They worked hard as they wanted the restaurant to be successful, and their wives earned extra money through sewing, which helped them in funding the restaurant.
According to sources, Gujral came up with the idea of creating Butter Chicken when a large group of customers came to the Moti Mahal restaurant for a late meal. So Gujral, Jaggi, and Dass had to improvise and thus Gujral improvised and invented what we now know as Butter Chicken.
The years after India’s partition saw a growing influx of Punjabi people in the Union Territory of Delhi. Punjabi refugees from Pakistan were a market that they could sell Butter Chicken to. The refugees were looking to eat traditional Peshawar food. With introducing other dishes, Delhi became the epicentre of cooking and innovation in India.
Famous people who visited the place where Butter Chicken was invented.
With the popularity of Butter Chicken and other dishes, the Moti Mahal became one of Delhi’s most respected and popular restaurants. It drew people from different parts of the world, and even some famous world leaders visited it throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, Jackie Kennedy, JFK, Richard Nixon, and even the Queen of England are just some famous people who have visited the Moti Mahal. The Mahal became a global brand with restaurants from Uttar Pradesh to New Zealand, Saudi Arabia to Tanzania named after the Moti Mahal. Even till this day, the Moti Mahal remains one of the most recognized names in Indian cuisine.