The Butter Chicken Divide And Matters Such..

Butter Chicken Image used for representation only


My Wife Is From Delhi.

And I have therefore had, over the course of the last few years, the pleasure of making various trips to Delhi, and learning more about that exotic, eccentric place.

I have learnt, for example, that drivers in Delhi genuinely believe that the pedals in the cars operable with their foot are two in number. The accelerator and the clutch, in that order. The brake is a figment of one’s imagination, as is the color red at traffic signals.*

They are full of such charming quirks, the good people of Delhi. Their vocal chords operate in two primary modes, Yelling, and Screaming. Their idea of a good time is to go to Connaught Place. Connaught Place is what the offspring would look like if Pune Railway Station mated with Juhu Chowpatty. And finally, and most distressingly, they think they know how to make butter chicken.

Space doesn’t permit me the opportunity to expand at length here, but I must mention in passing that they also think their golgappas are better than our pani puri. Still, maybe that’ll be the subject of a future rumination.

For the moment, let us focus on one of the most misleading notions of our time: the misguided idea that Delhiites know how to make butter chicken.

They don’t.

Hotel Mahabaleshwar on Baner Road knows how to make butter chicken. Shreeman, or Kavi in Kothrud know how to make butter chicken. It isn’t the cheapest place to visit, but allow me to assure you that Spice Kitchen, at the Marriott on Senapati Bapat Road knows how to make butter chicken. Or a dozen other places that true-blue Puneris may point out as being equally good. These places make a reddish/brownish butter chicken that is fragrant, redolent with just the right amount of taste enhancing spices, slightly (but not overpoweringly so!) sweetish on the palate, and satisfyingly, cholesterol-enhancing-ly rich.

So good are these dishes, dear reader, that I’m tempted to abandon this column halfway done and go to one of these places for lunch.

They taste best with butter naan as an accompaniment, and in my humble opinion, taste much, much better on the morning after. Maybe the spices marinate more, maybe the dish matures overnight – i do not claim to know the science behind it, but my tastebuds do not lie.

Butter chicken the next day is where it’s at.

The Delhi version, and it pains me to say this, comes nowhere close. Not the same day, not the morning after. It is a pale, insipid, flavorless version of the butter chicken that Puneris have known and loved for years.

Now, I’m nothing if not a fair-minded individual, and I’ll gladly agree to the idea that somebody up north invented the dish. I’m not arguing with that. I’ll also gladly cede that our version may not be the most authentic one around, and that only Moti Mahal and the like are the certifiably authentic version. Maybe.

All I’m saying is, Apple didn’t invent the mobile phone, and Blackberry used to say for the longest time that only phones with keyboards are truly authentic phones. And I know which kind of phone I like to use. That’s all I’m saying.

And if you doubt me, try the butter chicken out at one of the places mentioned above. Just do me a favour, would you please? Make sure you save some for me, and invite me for lunch the morning after.

*To be fair, the latter has been true in Pune for decades.

#The views expressed in this column are the authors.
Ashish Kulkarni

Ashish Kulkarni

Ashish is a confirmed Punekar, which guarantees eternal undying love for the city, but also mandates an incurable sense of cynicism about it.

He doesn't expect the paradox to be resolved in his lifetime
Ashish Kulkarni