"On the Butter Chicken Trail "The Food Bytes By monish Gujral for Sunday Express

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The Butter Chicken”:  The dish every one hates to Love ,  but loves to eat…….

An unintended benefit of the otherwise traumatic partition of India is the introduction, first to Delhi, later to the rest of the newly independent nation, and, eventually the whole world the fabled north-west frontier Tandoori cuisine. The Butter chicken story  is  the story of a man  :Kundan LAL Gujral who made the curry a butter-filled delight, bringing to the ordinary chicken a special flavour. -the butter chicken. The result – a revolution in taste.

The Butter chicken, which may pass of  as Punjabi dish , has since then , ruled the roost  over the globe.

The food  has always evolved , as  is meant to , depending upon the demands  subjective to geographical features, availability  , means, necessity  and scientific innovations etc. .As goes the old saying necessity is the mother of all inventions –It was  mere need to sell the chicken tikka , which went  a little dry hanging by the side of hot tandoors that lead to the invention of the  legendary  Makhani gravy or the Butter Sauce  , so that the chicken  could be drowned in this sauce to over come the poor  tikka`s dry spell . Since then, Butter chicken  has also evolved   and  has been adapted appearing in many avatars all over the world . Like all originals have copies so does The Butter chicken .Over the years people have experimented with this dish and made their own versions ,some spiced it up with peppers, some put extra dollops of butter with Cashew paste , few have been making with paste of dry nuts , some made a healthy version of  the dish claiming to use olive oil instead of butter (or should I say taking the buttered soul of  chicken away )and so on. Lately A new form of a Butter chicken has been created  called The Anarkali  and  the creators claim  to have created a classiest  version  of the  Butter chicken and priced a  Rs 6000/- a portion .

Many moons ago  I was called upon by the Indian Express to demonstrate cooking butter chicken at the British Council, Delhi at the invitation of Mr Marsden, then the director of the Council.  Mr Marsden’s words, after taking the first bite, still echo in my mind: ‘The bird has truly migrated.’ Today, CTM (chicken tikka masala) is the national dish of Britain. What is CTM? It is just a derivative of butter chicken. When Foreign Secretary Robin Cook showcased the chicken tikka masala as the symbol of multicultural Britain, he only succeeded in turning the boneless dish into a major bone of contention. Cook ,cooked up a racial row , unwittingly triggered a culinary controversy in the home of the chicken tikka. Today The  hundreds of tones of CTM are produced and sold all over Europe especially ,London. If all portions of CTM produced in London in one year  were  stacked,they would make a tower 2770 times taller than Greenwich Millennium Dome.

Only last evening I witnessed  the   making of the    “White Butter Chicken” .  Michelin Star chef Vineet Bhatia from London was in town  , who invited us over a meal  where he cooked and served this mouth watering version of the old Punjabi classic .  His white  Butter chicken   was  made of ripe tomatoes, which are diced and sprinkled with salt , garlic juice   and hung in a white muslin cloth .The residue  is collected in a bowl and interestingly ,  the residue of hung tomatoes is white in colour  but with the same tangy taste . This tomato residue was cooked with cream and cashew paste and seasoning to get the white butter chicken.

Today’s consumers are more flirtatious gazing for an increasing level of fun and variety. Anything that surrounds them for too long jades them.  There is a constant need to change and adapt to new trends and make the  old classics interesting  by twisting the cuisine  for fun .

With this I conclude ,that the same  Blue blooded Punjabi Butter Chicken , continues to be born and reborn again and again in different avtars in different parts of the world but the soul remains the same….

First chef from India to be invited to Le cordon Bleu to demonstrate in Paris. Monish is credited with the trailblazing turn-around of Moti Mahal, from being a small but iconic presence in Delhi, to becoming a multi-national corporation that is well on its way to defining how the world eats Indian food. A traditionalist, Monish has remained true to the signature dishes that made Moti Mahal a legend, while reinventing the dining experience into one that is exciting and avant garde to suit modern sensibilities.

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