Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken Chronicles

By Vineet Rajan

I moved to Mumbai in 2010, from Hyderabad. I had lived in Pune and Bangalore before. However, much before any of that, I was in the land of butter chicken – Delhi and Chandigarh. The love affair of north Indians with the bird is so deep; it’s almost sacred. And I leave it there because I don’t know what to compare it with.

Must not add any onions in the gravy. If you do, might as well call it Kadai Chicken.

In 2002 I left north India to move all over the country and since then I’ve been on a perennial hunt for the best butter chicken that I can have regularly. The closest I came to was at Delhi Kitchen in Deep Bangla Chowk in Pune. Students who have been in Pune until recently would know what am talking about. I am told Delhi Kitchen has been shut down now though.

I’ll tell you what I imagine the perfect butter chicken to be:

  1. It needs to have big boned pieces; precisely 8 for a full bird. One needs to be able to dig into each part of the anatomy to really relish the bird. A half plate will have four pieces and no one gets the right to rob me off a leg piece.
  2. The gravy MUST NOT have any sugar or honey. The thing is everyone assumes that butter chicken gravy needs to be sweet and hence they add sugar. That’s sacrilege. The best butter chicken is hard to describe in words but ‘sugary sweet’ is definitely not one of them.
  3. The chicken pieces need to go through a tandoor first, and then cooked with the gravy. The best of both worlds – tandoor and open kadai comes together in this dish. Those who cook this bird in a pressure cooker are doing something terribly wrong!
  4. Use only white homemade butter. None of that other greasy, salty stuff please.
  5. Must not add any onions in the gravy. If you do, might as well call it Kadai Chicken.

There have been numerous instances where I have walked out of restaurants after the waiter is done answering just anyone of these questions:

  1. How many pieces?
  2. Bones or boneless?
  3. Sugar in the gravy?
  4. Tandoor cooked first?

I mean even the restaurants which add the word Punjab, Delhi or other pretentious prefixes have failed me on one of these accounts. Why would anyone want to eat boneless butter chicken in the first place? Isn’t it the butter soaked bone-marrow that is the hero of this dish?

I found a place near my house in Mumbai which initially made decent butter chicken, but lately they have started to disappoint me too by making it sweeeeeeet. I’ve heard of a place somewhere in Dadar which lives up to the criteria I set for what I believe is good butter chicken. Yet to visit it though!

So what do you guys think goes into making the perfect dish of butter chicken? Do you know of places in Mumbai which serve a rightly made butter chicken? Till the time I find it in Mumbai or Maharashtra I am better off with Chicken Sukka.

About Vineet Rajan

Vineet is an entreprenur and a road-travel junkie. He goes by the name @RoyalEnfielder on Twitter. He is married to Swati, who works with Holachef and manages this blog, among other funky stuff!


This post is part of Holachef’s Write Ho! program which is open to Holachef’s fans, critics, customers and their loved ones! To participate, write to [email protected].

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