Unless you’re vegetarian by birth, you’ve surely tasted Butter Chicken and Tandoori Chicken at least once in your life. Even the vegetarians have tasted the veg-friendly variant to this succulent gravy filled dish - butter paneer. Butter Chicken is so popular that it wouldn’t be wrong to call it India’s favourite chicken gravy. Same goes for Tandoori chicken/ If you decide to dine out at a Mughlai restaurant tonight, Butter and Tandoori chicken are on the table for sure. But do y’all know that these dishes actually originated in Pakistan?
"Mokha Singh retired and sold the shop off to Gujral, who renamed it as Moti Mahal"
Okay, we’ll get to that later. Mughlai cuisine is basically a blend of Central Asian cuisine and North Indian cuisine. As the nomenclature suggests, this synthesis took place during the Mughal rule in India and the Mughal ladies tending to the kitchens are the ones to be thanked for providing us with these. Tandoors are basically ovens which are now found in metal, but back in the day, were made of clay. They were widely used in Mughal kitchens which caused the food cooked in them to have a smoky, steamed taste.
Now cut to pre-partition India. In Peshawar, which is now in Pakistan, there was a shop called Mokhey da Dhaba which was owned by an elderly gentleman called Mokha Singh. In his shop worked a man with an innovative mind called KL Gujral. Now Gujral was always thinking of creating new tastes in order to keep his customers happy. In this pursuit, he ended up cooking spiced chicken in a tandoor, which was used by the locals to cook naan (bread). What happened next is history, and we now have Tandoori Chicken!
Eventually, Mokha Singh retired and sold the shop off to Gujral, who renamed it as Moti Mahal (yes, the same Moti Mahal that you might have seen in various cities around the country.) Time passed and the business flourished, but one day, Gujral saw that the kebabs left over the seekh would dry out by the end of the day, compromising the taste of the chicken. So he had the brilliant idea of chopping the chicken up and serving it in a curry made of tomatoes, butter, cream and some spices, and that’s how the Butter Chicken was born!
"The yardstick of comparison for the Butter chicken is at Mughal Mahal in East Patel Nagar, Delhi"
But at the time of the partition, Peshawar became a part of Pakistan, so Gujral was forced to move to Delhi, where he opened up a Moti Mahal at Daryagunj. The then PM, Jawaharlal Nehru was so impressed by the Tandoori chicken that he made it a regular serving at official banquets. Which means that Tandoori Chicken has been enjoyed by leaders from all over the world!
These dishes were such a hit that a lot of people started to experiment and created more and more variants. According to Maryan H. Reshii, who is a prominent food critic, says that her yardstick of comparison for the Butter chicken is at Mughal Mahal in East Patel Nagar, Delhi. And it’s true. Anyone who has eaten there can vouch that it’s the best Butter chicken they’ve ever had.
If you’re in Mumbai and want the best Butter Chicken there is, (in my opinion) pack your wallet up and go to the Jiggs Kalras’ Punjab Grill. Or if you’re looking for a more economical option, any of the Lucky’s chains would do!
Where do you think the best Butter chicken/ Tandoori chicken is served? Let us know your answers in the comments section below!