When I first arrived to Fiji I was surprised that Indo-Fijian cooks did not know what butter chicken was? Just as most Chinese cooks know how to cook a good fried rice, I naively thought that all Indian cooks knew butter chicken. However as I was soon to discover, Fiji’s Indian population had been somewhat disconnected from their motherland recipes including Murgh Makhani, or butter chicken. The original recipe has is origins in a sweet shop in Peshawar, India. It was here in the early 1940’s that shop owner Kundan Lal Gujral invented the Tandoori Chicken that we all love today. An astute businessman, Gujral realised that the tandoori chicken hanging above the tandoor all day would tend to dry out if unsold. He then came up with the genius idea of creating a basic gravy with tomatoes, butter, cream and some spices to immerse the roasted chicken pieces in, helping them regain moisture and become palatable again. And thus, was born the Butter Chicken. His restaurant chain, Moti Mahal Delux is today a global franchise with more than 120 outlets.
The beauty of Butter Chicken lies in the subtle balance of tanginess and a velvety texture. The spice mix can be a little complicated so if you are looking for a good shortcut, I’ll let you in a little secret I use when time is limited – Sharwood’s Tandoori Paste. This paste has been around for a long time and its recipe closely mimics the ingredients in this recipe. To reduce the richness of the cream I have also substituted in some coconut milk to bring some tropical taste to this already great recipe.