Whenever one thinks of ordering chicken at a restaurant, one dish that goes through their mind is Butter Chicken. Calling this recipe iconic will be an understatement. For years, this has been the go-to chicken dish for many families dining out. Also commonly known as Murgh Makhanwala in hindi, this delicious and flavourful comfort food can easily be paired with tandoori roti, naan or even steamed rice. While every restaurant has its unique way of making this comforting delicacy, the end result is always delicious. However, how did this recipe come into existence? Who made the famous Butter Chicken that has ruled over our hearts for so many years?
There are many tales about the origin of this delicious recipe, and one of the stories is closely linked to Tandoori Chicken Tikka itself. The man behind the legendary Butter Chicken, Kundal Lal Gujaral, was also the man behind the decadent Tandoori Chicken Tikka. Legend has it, around a hundred years ago, during his young days he worked as a chef at a small restaurant in Peshawar, where he started experimenting with grilling marinated chicken skewers in a Tandoor, which was earlier only used for cooking rotis and naan. The bright coloured chicken pieces with juicy meat and a smoke flavour was an instant hit.
Fast forward to 1947,Kundal Lal Gujaral arrived at Delhi after the partition and founded a new restaurant named, ‘ Moti Mahal’ in Daryaganj. During those times due to the lack of refrigeration facilities, storing unsold tandoori tikkas was a challenging task, as the leftover tikkas would lose its texture and turned dry and not-so-appetizing, as the time went by. In order to combat this, he decided to cook the tikkas in tomato juice, butter, cream and spices and flavours. This not only helped in attaining the perfect texture but also added to the richness and deliciousness of the dish. The combination of the smoked flavour of the tikkas with the rich spice infused tomato, butter and cream gravy were a match made in heaven. That’s how Butter Chicken came to be one of the most loved chicken gravies in the world.
In the 1950s this restaurant won hearts of many with the Butter Chicken and became a popular destination for anyone visiting Delhi. And this popularity was not just within the country, but across the globe as well. From the US President Richard Nixon, to John F. Kennedy, everyone has been a fan of the delicious butter chicken.
Moreover, India’s first education minister and freedom fighter Maulana Azad had told the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, that when in India he must not miss visiting two iconic places – the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Moti Mahal in Delhi. We couldn't agree more!
Today Butter Chicken has evolved into many other dishes and is loved all around the world, but it is fascinating to see how versatile this dish was that it made a special place in the hearts of many and continues to do so!
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.