Who created butter chicken curry in India? – 02/10/2024 – Food

Who created butter chicken curry in India?  – 02/10/2024 – Food


In 1947, two men, both named Kundan, fled Peshawar during the bloody partition that separated Pakistan from British India. They arrived in Delhi and soon became partners in a restaurant called Moti Mahal, serving food from the Punjab region.

In this, his descendants agree. Where they differ is on the question of which of the men should go down in culinary history.

Both families claim that it was their own Kundan who invented butter chicken – the delicious, creamy combination of tandoori chicken and tomato sauce loved wherever north Indian food is served. And one of them went to court to try to prove it.

Before we delve deeper: Yes, it’s difficult to prove that a single person invented dishes that became world-renowned. Besides, does it really matter after all these years? Being first does not necessarily mean being the best.

But in the case of butter chicken, a lot is at stake in the discussion — mainly, money, but also the legacy of the famous restaurant that the two men began building almost eight decades ago, a period that spans almost all of India’s modern history as an independent nation.

The case is set out in a voluminous 2,752-page document filed in the Delhi High Court. In it, members of Kundan Lal Gujral’s family, who run Moti Mahal, claim that the descendants of Gujral’s business partner Kundan Lal Jaggi, who run a rival upstart chain called Daryaganj, falsely claimed that the butter chicken was Jaggi’s idea. .

The lawsuit offers a pre-refrigeration-era glimpse into how the dish came to be. Gujral says he was “worried about what to do with the leftover tandoori chicken every night and came up with a recipe to make a sauce with chopped tomatoes, cream, butter and spices, with sugar when the tomatoes were too sour to balance the flavors.” .

Jaggi’s grandson, Raghav Jaggi, tells a different story: that his own grandfather invented butter chicken by chance.

In this version of events, it was late at night and the kitchen was almost out of stock except for a few pieces of tandoori chicken. Kundan Lal Jaggi, according to his grandson, was asked by a large group “to make a sauce and add tandoori chicken so that everyone could have a hearty meal”.

Gathering what he could, he created, in this narrative, a sauce with tomatoes, fresh butter and some spices. Next, he mixed in pieces of cooked tandoori chicken — which is why recipes today still use the chicken first in the tandoor and then add it to the makhani, or butter, sauce while it simmers.

Gujral’s family is not convinced. “It is not possible to create butter chicken sauce ‘on the fly,'” their lawsuit argues.

Monish Gujral, grandson of Kundan Lal Gujral, said the family is seeking an injunction against the Raghav Jaggi chain, founded in 2019, and damages of about $240,000 for copyright infringement and unfair competition. The case includes another creamy creation, dal makhani, a dish with black lentils.

“It’s recorded history that my grandfather invented tandoori chicken, butter chicken and dal makhani,” says Monish Gujral at his south Delhi restaurant. “For so many years, there have been awards recorded and interviews with my grandfather where the Jaggi family was also present. Why didn’t they claim credit or say they also deserved credit?”

In its first incarnation, Moti Mahal was a large open-air restaurant in the Old Delhi neighborhood, where guests could step into the primitive kitchen and watch the food being prepared. The traders around the current restaurant in south Delhi still remember the original place.

The restaurant occupied a ground floor space in an upscale market in the 1970s. It recently moved to an upper floor; the guests who come to look for him at the old address are pointed upwards.

Customers are greeted by a poster of the elder Gujral that identifies him as the inventor of tandoori chicken, butter chicken, and dal makhani. Inside, there are portraits of him with Indian prime ministers, politicians and Bollywood stars.

Many customers come looking for the same flavor they have enjoyed for decades, even though tandoori chicken is now cooked in gas-fired steel ovens rather than the coal-fired clay ovens that the government has banned to reduce pollution.

Raghav Jaggi, owner of rival chain Daryaganj, said he started his business soon after his grandfather’s death in 2018 to “celebrate the resilience and success of Hindu Punjabi refugees who fled Peshawar and came to Delhi as their new home.” Daryaganj is a striking contrast in vibe and ambiance, luxurious and modern, yet it also advertises itself with the slogan “From the inventors of butter chicken and dal makhani” and displays portraits of personalities served by the elder Jaggi.

Over the weekend, there was a long queue as Indians and foreigners waited for a table at a branch in an upscale mall near Delhi airport.

He offers two types of butter chicken – the “original butter chicken from 1947 (secret recipe)” and the “butter chicken today”. The original’s sauce has a thicker texture, evoking a time before modern kitchen appliances, while the newer dish has a silkier, richer sauce.

Mishika Verma, a 22-year-old advertising professional, said she prefers the original version. “I honestly like this butter chicken better than Moti Mahal’s because it’s more authentic,” she said. “What you find elsewhere is very creamy and heavy.”

What she doesn’t care about is who created the dish.

“The claim could be really important to them personally,” she said. “I understand.”

But in the end, “I came here for the taste.”



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