What’s In A Name

Country of OriginIndia
New Delhi

It’s ironic that something so rich was born out of poverty!

The 1950s was a period of turmoil in the Indian Subcontinent. The dust had barely settled post Partition – the division of British-occupied India into two independent countries, India and Pakistan. Both nations were yet to fully realize the full extent of the consequences of such a historic event, the results of which continue to be felt across the subcontinent.

Born from the chaos was the story of two friends – Kundan Lal Jaggi and Kundan Lal Gujral – forced to flee their homes in Pakistan in search for more secure, greener pastures in India. At the time, neither Kundans were to know their roles in creating an everlasting legacy in the culinary world. That the Punjabi Pals from Peshawar would achieve greatness as the founding fathers of the famed Moti Mahal restaurant courtesy their culinary creations, one of which would leave its mark as the most popular dish in Indian cuisine. Peshawar’s loss was New Delhi’s gain!

Funnily enough, their greatest culinary creation – the Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani) – like many of that ilk was an accident. Not one to waste any leftover produce, Gujral thought to add a buttery tomato gravy to a batch of unsold tandoori tikkas as a way of softening the meat so that they could be sold the next day!

Talk about making the most with leftovers, huh!

Our Connection

कहाँ (Where)Makhan Fish and Chicken Hut – Amritsar, Punjab, India
कब (When)
December, 2014

The train journey from New Delhi to Amritsar was an arduous one, even if it did have its fair share of amusing anecdotes, enough to fill an entire set of a stand-up comedy show. We arrived into Amritsar by mid-day, and spent the next few hours on a rickety bus touring the city.

By sunset, our stomachs began to rumble and we thought it was time for a warm, wholesome Punjabi meal. We decided to split into two groups – with the vegetarians off to a nearby dhaba (local eatery) whilst us, the carnivores, took a short bus ride to Makhan – a local fish and chicken shack.

You should never judge a book by its cover, and I don’t think there has ever been a more appropriate moment to say it than on that day. While the exteriors may have been lacking some charm, the food was nothing but excellence. The brass (or copper/steel/any metal) pot housing the butter chicken was emptied as soon as it arrived at our table. And this wasn’t one of those occasions where we were so hungry that we would’ve eaten anything. It was really really that good!

The curry was rich without it being too heavy, the chicken tikkas were soft, moist, perfectly charred in the corners and were as succulent as a chicken should be. Fair to say that every Butter Chicken since has failed to live up to the standards set by this small local shack. Even mine, of course! Although, it’s probably easier to make this one than pay for a return-ticket to Amritsar!!


Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 10 mins Cook Time 30 mins Rest Time 60 mins Total Time 1 hr 40 mins
Servings: 3
Best Season: Suitable throughout the year


"Yes? Hello! I recently ordered a Butter Chicken from your restaurant and I must say it was the most buttery Butter Chicken I have ever had! My lips are still coated in all the Makhan, and I'm barely able to hold on to my phone! Sir, is this a complaint or a compliment?!"



  1. Dice the chicken breasts into medium-size chunks. Add them to a large bowl

  2. Marinate the chicken in yogurt, fenugreek powder, fennel powder, salt, black pepper, and half of the prescribed turmeric powder, red chilli powder, Kashmiri red chilli powder, and garam masala

  3. Give the diced chicken a good massage so as to ensure that all of the pieces are well coated in the marination. Leave it to rest for at least one hour1

  4. Whilst the chicken is marinating, it's time to turn our attention to making the tomato paste. Roughly chop the red onion, tomatoes, and cashew nuts

  5. Carefully add them to a blender and pulse2 until you get a smooth liquid tomato puree

  6. Pour the ghee and half of the prescribed vegetable oil into a large sauté pan and bring it over a high heat

  7. Add the diced chicken, a few pieces at a time,3 into the sauté pan. Pan fry the chicken until it turns a nice golden brown colour on the outside and is fully cooked on the inside4

  8. Once the chicken is cooked through, place them on a plate or in a large bowl to rest while you prepare the rest of the curry

  9. Add half of the prescribed butter and pour the rest of the vegetable oil into the same sauté pan and bring it up to a medium-high heat

  10. Add the rest of the ginger-garlic paste into the pan and sauté until the raw smell dissipates 

  11. Add the rest of the turmeric powder, red chilli powder, and Kashmiri red chilli powder to the pan. Continue to sauté on medium heat for a few minutes

  12. Add the tomato concentrate to the spice mixture and sauté for a minute before pouring the blitzed tomato cashew puree into the sauté pan

  13. Season the puree with the garam masala, sugar and a generous pinch of salt. Leave the puree to bubble over a medium heat until you see the oil starting to separate from the puree

  14. Once the oil starts to separate, add the chicken (along with its released juices) into the pan and stir until the chicken is completely coated in the curry

  15. Pour the water into the pan and stir until the curry loosens slightly. Once it reaches its desired consistency, add the rest of the butter and stir until it melts into the curry

  16. Add the dried fenugreek leaves (Kasuri Methi) to the Butter Chicken and stir until it spreads across the curry evenly

  17. To Serve (per serving): The Butter Chicken can be served either with Parathas or Rice.

    If served with Paratha, pour a generous ladleful of the Butter Chicken into a small bowl. Garnish with a drizzle of single cream and a few chopped coriander leaves. Serve the paratha on the side.

    If served with Rice, place a heaped tablespoon of rice into the serving bowl, and pour a ladleful of the Butter Chicken over the rice. You can garnish the Butter Chicken with a drizzle of single cream and a few chopped coriander leaves either before pouring it over the rice or even after! 


1. Ideally, you would like to marinate your diced chicken for 24 hours (or overnight) if possible. However, if there is a time constraint, then let it marinate for a minimum of 1 hour.

2. It is ideal if your blender has a Pulse option as this would result in a smoother paste than if you use the general grind/blend option. If you do not have the Pulse option, don't worry, you can use the general setting.

3. Ensure that you cook the chicken in batches so that the pan does not get too overcrowded. Overcrowding the pan will lead to the chicken being boiled and absorbing more fat rather than it being seared and attaining a nice golden brown skin.

4. To test whether the chicken is cooked through, break the biggest chunk in half using either a fork or a tong. The insides should be glistening white without any hint of pink (raw).

5. The prices of the ingredients (table below) are only rough estimates and are subject to change!

6. As certain ingredients are common household items - salt, pepper, oil - you may not be required to purchase them, and so the cost of preparing this dish is lower.

Keywords: Chicken, Lunch & Dinner, Main Course, Non-Vegetarian

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