Home Asian Butter Chicken (Murg Makhani) – Traditional Indian Recipe

Butter Chicken (Murg Makhani) – Traditional Indian Recipe

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butter chicken

butter chicken

Butter chicken, also known as murgh makhani, is one of the most popular Indian curries around the world today. It’s quite a mild curry compared to many Indian curries. Butter chicken is composed of pieces of chicken cooked in a mildly spiced tomato and cream sauce.

What is the origin of butter chicken?

Originating from northern India, butter chicken was first made in 1947 thanks to the creativity of three Indians, Kundan Lal Gujral, Thakur Dass, and Kundan Lal Jaggi. These Punjabi Hindu restaurateurs were the founders of the famous Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi in 1948.

They needed a way to use up another popular creation, tandoori chicken. The dish was made “by chance” while trying to prevent the already-cooked meat from drying out, the meat was slowly stewed in a gravy of tomatoes, aromatic spices and butter, creating this delicate chicken in a gravy that was rich in butter and cream.

In 1974, a recipe was published for murgh makhani (tandoori chicken cooked in butter and tomato sauce). In 1975, the English phrase “butter chicken” first appeared in print, as a specialty of the house at Gaylord Indian restaurant in Manhattan.

In India, murgh makhani is usually made with bone-in chicken and outside of India, boneless chicken is more commonly used. As with any dish, bone-in chicken will always give the most flavor.

Traditionally, the marinated chicken is cooked in a tandoor prior to being added to the sauce. Tandoor ovens are used throughout Southern, Central, and Western Asia and are cylindrical clay pots used for cooking and baking.

The heat is generated by a wood or charcoal fire at the bottom of the tandoor and the air inside the tandoor can reach upwards of 900 F (480˚C). Tandoors are often left lit for hours at a time while a consistent temperature is maintained.

Westernized versions will instead grill or roast the chicken in an attempt to replicate the flavor generated by the tandoor. In the absence of tandoor oven, grilling the chicken on a barbecue can definitely generate more flavor than roasting it in the oven.

Alternatively, the marinated chicken (shaking off the excess marinade before adding it) can be pan-fried, until it’s browned or the chicken can cook along with the other ingredients in the pan.

indian chicken

Butter chicken vs. chicken tikka masala

While Indian cuisine is composed of a whole lexicon of dishes from crimson vindaloos to spicy phaals, each masterful in their use of spice and heat, it’s hard to draw away from two favorites seen on nearly every Indian restaurant menu, butter chicken and tikka masala. While both have a familiar smokiness and orange tinge, few can explain the difference between the two.

The main difference between these two mouth-watering dishes is butter chicken has lesser tomato intensity and chicken tikka masala is less creamy than butter chicken.

Tikka masala is a dry dish that is cooked in the tandoor while butter masala is cooked in a pan over a fire. While most people think that chicken tikka masala is an authentic Indian dish, it was actually invented in the UK in the 1960s and while tikka masala is similar in taste to butter chicken, it’s actually a quintessential British dish, having its own blend of spices that differentiate it.

What spices are used?

Butter chicken calls for a variety of Indian spices, such as turmeric, garam masala, cumin, saffron and coriander. Butter chicken is also one of those Indian dishes that are on the milder side, because of the creaminess created by the yogurt and cream.

Unlike Western dishes where flour or corn starch are used to thicken gravies, cashew paste is used as the thickener for butter chicken and it also creates an additional depth of flavor.

butter chicken on rice

butter chicken

Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani)

Butter chicken (मुर्ग़ मक्खनी or murgh makhani), is a traditional dish of Indian cuisine in New Delhi, made with chicken marinated in a butter sauce, usually served with naan and rice.

Course:

Main Course

Cuisine:

Indian

Servings: 4 people

Calories: 643 kcal

Author: Nita Ragoonanan

Ingredients

For the chicken and the marinade

  • 1
    lb
    boneless chicken thighs
    , cut into pieces
  • 1
    (2 inches / 5 cm) piece
    ginger
    , grated
  • 3
    cloves
    garlic
    , crushed
  • ½
    cup
    dahi
    (Greek yogurt)
  • 1
    lime
    , squeezed
  • 1
    teaspoon
    ground coriander
  • ¼
    teaspoon
    ground cinnamon
  • 1
    teaspoon
    Cashmere hot pepper powder
  • 1
    teaspoon
    ground cumin
  • A few
    saffron strands
  • Salt
  • White pepper

For the sauce

  • 5
    tablespoons
    ghee
    (clarified butter), divided
  • 2
    tablespoons
    vegetable oil
  • 1
    onion
    , thinly sliced
  • 2
    cloves
    garlic
    , crushed
  • 1
    (2 inches / 5 cm) piece
    ginger
    , grated
  • 1
    (12 oz / 400 ml) can
    crushed tomatoes
  • 1
    teaspoon
    Cashmere hot pepper powder
  • 1
    tablespoon
    ground coriander
  • 2
    cloves
  • 1
    tablespoon
    ground cumin
  • 1
    teaspoon
    garam masala
  • ½
    teaspoon
    ground turmeric
  • ½
    teaspoon
    dried fenugreek leaves
    (kasuri methi)
  • 2
    tablespoons
    finely chopped cilantro
  • 1
    tablespoon
    cashew paste
  • ½
    cup
    heavy cream

Instructions

Marinade

  1. Start with the chicken marinade by mixing the chicken and all the ingredients for the marinade.

  2. Marinate for 8 hours in the refrigerator.

  3. Drain the chicken to remove all the excess marinade.

Chicken

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee in a large Dutch oven and brown the chicken over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Set aside.

Sauce

  1. Pour the oil and 2 tablespoons of ghee in another Dutch oven over medium heat and heat them.

  2. Sweat the onion, garlic and ginger in it. Add all the spices (except the fenugreek) and the cashew paste, and mix thoroughly.

  3. Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil.

  4. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

  5. Pour this sauce into a blender and blend it until getting a velvety mixture.

  6. Sieve the sauce through a fine mesh colander.

Assembly

  1. Pour the sauce into the Dutch oven with the chicken, add the rest of the ghee, the cream, and mix well.

  2. Place the Dutch oven on medium to high heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.

  3. Remove the pot from the heat and sprinkle with the dried fenugreek leaves and cilantro.

  4. Enjoy with white rice and naan bread.

Nutrition Facts

Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani)

Amount Per Serving

Calories 643
Calories from Fat 522

% Daily Value*

Fat 58g89%

Saturated Fat 30g188%

Cholesterol 201mg67%

Sodium 115mg5%

Potassium 424mg12%

Carbohydrates 11g4%

Fiber 2g8%

Sugar 3g3%

Protein 23g46%

Vitamin A 545IU11%

Vitamin C 8mg10%

Calcium 106mg11%

Iron 3mg17%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.



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