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Originating in the late 1940s/early 1950s, butter chicken — or, murgh makhani — was created by legendary chef Kundan Lal Gujral, of Moti Mahal in Delhi, as a way to extend the life of tandoori chicken. The leftover chicken was simmered in a spiced tomato gravy, made extra luscious by a hearty dose of butter. Today, butter chicken has become a beloved dish not only across the Indian subcontinent, but also across the globe.
Like many recipes, this dish has many variations — some use more tomatoes than others, some call for upwards of 2 cups of heavy cream while others just ¼ cup, and, of course, the spice level varies — but there is one thing that remains constant in every iteration of butter chicken: paan methi (or fenugreek leaves). These sweet, herbal, slightly bitter leaves are what gives murgh makhani its signature flavor. Our version of butter chicken is rich in chillies, using both Sirarakhong Hathei to bring mouthwatering smokiness and heat and Byadgi chillies for earthiness and they're bright red color (if you're craving a little extra fire, you can swap out the Byadgi for Kashmiri chillies). Its warm with cumin and coriander, plus a little cinnamon, and has plenty of paan methi weaving its way through the sauce.
This recipe may be a labor of love — from marinating the chicken and slowly cooking down the onions to blending the butter into the sauce so it emulsifies to a dreamy creamy bliss — but the end result is well worth the time. Psst, if you are making tandoori chicken, take a page from Chef Lal Gujral's book, and make twice and much to use to make butter chicken later in the week!