Butter Chicken doesn’t need any introduction. No matter which part of the world you are in, if you find an Indian restaurant, you will find Butter chicken as well. And the dish has earned its reputation. Tender chicken marinated in a cream sauce of bold flavors and heavenly aromas. But why is it such a widely loved dish?
To know this answer, let’s go back to the origin of butter chicken. It was created by Chef Kindan Lal Gujral in 1948. He is also credited for making the equally famous tandoori chicken and dal makhani. When he first conceived the recipe, he used leftover chicken juice and mixed it with butter, cream, and tomatoes. He immersed the tandoori chicken pieces in this gravy to help them regain moisture. And this was how the Butter chicken was born.
To make this delicious Indian cuisine, the chicken must be first marinated for 12 to 24 hours in yogurt, ginger, garlic, and tandoori masala. It makes the chicken soft. There are a number of spices used including garam masala, turmeric, chili, salt, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, pepper, and lemon. For the sauce, you can try different variations. Usually, it includes butter, cream, and cashew paste as a thickener. The tangy tomatoes, smokey Kasuri methi, and yogurt will give a special and attractive taste to the gravy. Depending on the spices, it can be made hot or moderate to match your palate. Butter Chicken is a mild Indian dish in terms of spice and heat. This is why it is a great option for children and adults who are sensitive to heat. However, if you like heat, you can always add more cayenne or red chili powder.
Like every other Indian dish, the secret to making good butter chicken is the sauce or gravy. You have to use the spices extensively for delivering the depth and complexity of the flavors. The tomatoes and onion give that sweet note to the dish and the cream and butter make the mixture smooth and creamy. Butter chicken should be served with condiments spiked with citrus-like raita with fresh herbs for cutting through the richness.
Traditionally, before adding the marinated chicken to the sauce, it is cooked in a tandoor. Tandoors are cylindrical clay pots that are used throughout Western, Central, and Southern Asia for baking and cooking. The heat generated from the charcoal or wood fire can make the air inside the tandoor reach 900 degrees. However, it can be roasted or grilled for replicating the flavors. You can also fry the marinated chicken in a pan until it is brown.
Another aspect that makes butter chicken such a flavorful dish is its sauce. The westernized version of butter chicken uses cornstarch or flour for thickening the sauce. However, in India, groundnuts are used as thickeners. They also give the dish an additional depth of flavor. When you cook the butter chicken the right way, it can do with plain rice, carrot rice, methi rice, fried rice, chapati, naan, phulka, and almost everything. This class Indian dish had a humble beginning and now with so many available variations, it has been able to make its way into the hearts of many people.