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Food fight in Indian courts to decide who invented butter CHICKEN

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Food fight in Indian courts to decide who invented butter chicken​

Two popular restaurants in New Delhi are in a messy legal battle to call themselves the rightful creators of the famous Indian dish.
Food fight in Indian courts to decide who invented butter chicken

Butter chicken, one of India's most loved dishes, is at the centre of a culinary storm with two competing restaurant chains claiming to be the inventors of the lip-smacking preparation (Photo: AFP/Arun SANKAR)

Priyata Brajabasi & Calvin Yang
01 Mar 2024 06:29PM


Two popular restaurants in New Delhi are in a messy legal battle to call themselves the rightful creators of the famous Indian dish.
Food fight in Indian courts to decide who invented butter chicken
Butter chicken, one of India's most loved dishes, is at the centre of a culinary storm with two competing restaurant chains claiming to be the inventors of the lip-smacking preparation (Photo: AFP/Arun SANKAR)

Priyata Brajabasi & Calvin Yang
NEW DELHI: A food fight is on in the Indian courts to decide who invented butter chicken, a popular Indian dish.
Two New Delhi restaurants are in a bitter legal dispute to call themselves the rightful creators of the beloved dish, where the chicken is cooked in a tandoor or an oven, and stewed in a rich buttery tomato puree curry.
The dish has become one of the most iconic dishes in Indian cuisine, cooked and served nearly everywhere in the country, including high-end restaurants, street stalls and countless homes in between.

DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS OF THE ORIGINS​

For two Delhi restaurants, it is a fight for the chance to claim that the world's first ever butter chicken was created by them.
It all started when two men, both named Kundan Lal, came to New Delhi from Peshawar — now part of Pakistan — in 1947.
The two partnered to set up a restaurant called Moti Mahal, which translates to the Palace of Pearls, an ode to the rich Mughlai food they serve.
That restaurant soon became a New Delhi institution, which served the likes of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, former United States president John F Kennedy and celebrities from every walk of life.
Now the families of the two Kundan Lals, who have very different accounts of the origins, each claim they invented the butter chicken first.
The Moti Mahal chain of restaurants, owned by the family of Kundan Lal Gujral, has sued rival restaurant chain Daryaganj for claiming to be the inventors.
Moti Mahal owner Monish Gujral said: “It is actually our legacy, and we don’t want our legacy to be disrupted anyhow.”
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Butter chicken has become one of the most iconic dishes in Indian cuisine, cooked and served nearly everywhere in the country, including high-end restaurants, street stalls and countless homes in between.
However, Daryaganj’s proprietors said they have a stake in that legacy.
“I want to make it clear that when we started this brand, our intention was to give a tribute to the legacy of Kundan Lal Jaggi, all he has done, and how he has changed Indian food cuisine for the world,” said Mr Amit Bagga, co-founder and CEO of Daryaganj Restaurants.
“He was the founder of the restaurant Moti Mahal that changed everything for Indian cuisine.”

“IT’S THE TASTE THAT MATTERS”​

If the two feuding families were not enough, the plot has thickened.
A third entity, the current owners of the first Moti Mahal restaurant set up by the two Kundal Lals in Delhi, has also claimed the dish’s invention. They bought over the original restaurant in 1992.
“The legacy of this dish is important because this is a unique dish in the world,” said Moti Mahal Daryaganj owner Vinod Chaddha.
“Every person all over the world knows dal makhni and butter chicken. And this is the birthplace of those dishes. If they don’t own the restaurant where the dishes were invented, how can they claim it?”
Dal Makhni is a popular lentil dish laden with butter and cream.
The courts will resume hearing the case in May.
Street stall vendor and chef Sumit Jaiswal, who has been cooking his own version of butter chicken in this roadside stall for years, said no one person can own the dish.
“I have my own recipe that I don’t tell anyone,” he said. “Butter chicken can be for anyone. It doesn’t just belong to one person. Whoever is making it, even if I am making it, I can claim it is my own recipe.”
Many New Delhi residents told CNA they have taken the controversy over who invented butter chicken with a pinch of salt.
“It is the taste that matters,” said one resident. “If you give it an authentic or good taste, people will go there. Who invented it is folklore, nobody cares about folklore.”
 
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