Where Did Butter Chicken Come From? Origin & Evolution of Indian Butter Chicken by The Colonial
How many Butter Chicken lovers are out there? Well, you have Mr. Kundan Lal Gujral to thank for creating what we know today as Murgh Makhani or Butter Chicken – today, one of the most popular Indian curry dishes in the world!
Let's take a step back in time – way back to 1948 in Delhi, India - which is arguably the culinary capital of India and the most popular Indian curries holding the top spot on the menu of every Indian restaurant around the world and of course, you’ll find it Sydney’s #1 British Indian restaurants, The Colonial British Indian Cuisine.
Butter chicken is one of the richest of Indian dishes; succulent chicken pieces wrapped in a combination of cream, tomatoes and aromatic spices and dollops of butter, and it is also one of the most popular Indian dishes recreated around the world to suit different pallets.
While it remains everyone’s favourite Indian Curry, not many are aware of its humble origin however it is still heavily disputed. In this article, we’ll go with the most popular legend.
The inception of the original butter chicken is inevitably tied to the evolution of another people’s favourite, the tandoori chicken. The origins of the latter lie in Peshawar (now in Pakistan), where nearly 100 years ago, a man named Mokha Singh Lamba started a small restaurant. The restaurant’s young chef Kundan Lal Gujral decided to experiment by skewering yoghurt marinated pieces of chicken and sticking them into the tandoor (clay oven, which was previously used only for bread). Thus, the incredibly popular tandoori chicken was born. Another great menu item available at Sydney’s most popular Indian restaurants, The Colonial Darlinghurst and The Colonial Neutral Bay – Indian food for dining in, take away and home delivery.
After fleeing from Pakistan at the time of partition, Gujral started his own restaurant called Moti Mahal in Delhi. An astute businessman, Gujral realized that the Tandoori Chicken hanging on the skewers above the tandoor all day would tend to dry out if unsold due to the lack of refrigeration facilities. Don’t worry, Sydney’s best Indian restaurants do have refrigerators! Gujral then came up with the idea (whether it was genius or an accident – that is for you to decide) of creating a basic gravy with tomatoes, butter, cream and some spices to immerse the Tandoori Chicken pieces in, helping them regain moisture and become palatable again. And thus, Butter Chicken was born and now loved by many cultures across the world, including Sydney Australia where you’ll find one of the tastiest butter chicken curry dishes at The Colonial Indian Restaurants.
The beauty of Butter Chicken lies in the subtle balance of tanginess and a velvety texture. It is easy to get wrong, and often the versions you may find are too sweet or way too spicy. Surprisingly – or not – no two butter chicken recipes are alike. What gives the dish its distinctive flavour is its unique blend of spices, perfected over time. Typically, one needs to marinate the boneless chicken for hours in yogurt blended with spices like fresh garlic, coriander and ginger, garam masala, cumin powder, red chilli powder and others – it may vary from place to place. Then it’s cooked (typically tandoori-style) and simmered in a mild curry sauce rich with butter and cream, and in some cases, cashews, almonds and raisins as well.
Have you tried Butter Chicken from The Colonial Indian Restaurants in Sydney? It’s a must-try dish that comes highly recommended by visitors, regulars and of course, kids!
The original recipe called for hardly any spices, just a little cumin, a spoonful of chilli powder, and salt. The brilliance lay in the skilful combination of tomatoes and dairy fat. It’s interesting to see new generation chef’s around the world create complex dishes every day, take it up as a challenge to put their signature twist on the humble butter chicken and try to make it better. That’s exactly what the head-chefs at The Colonial British Indian restaurants have done – serving up Sydney’s favourite Butter Chicken recipe – from the kitchen to plate, 7 nights a week.
When it comes to great Indian curry; innovation is an inevitable part of the process. Visit The Colonial British Indian restaurant and you will be surprised with the new, well-balanced flavours of Butter Chicken being served up in two Sydney locations.
Butter chicken has gone through a lot of amendments over the last 6 decades however there are food experts who feel that innovation should not hamper the authenticity of the dish and flavours to be specific – that’s exactly why you will love Butter Chicken at The Colonial Indian Restaurants.
Its popularity remains undiminished. While there may be no need to tamper with the classic gravy, restaurants and chefs are nevertheless now serving up gentrified versions, putting spins on the makhana (buttery), milking its popularity while attempting to give millennial audience something new.
The butter chicken and its many equally-delightful versions are the perfect examples of the fact that the best things in life are often discovered by accident. With due respect to all the chefs exploring new tastes and flavours, the word ‘authenticity’ is somehow now underrated. Butter chicken’s place within Indian culinary history has always been guaranteed. And its popularity remains undiminished.