Who invented butter chicken? Popular Delhi eateries locked into legal battle for bragging rights

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Butter chicken and dal makhani. Photo: Canva

Who invented butter chicken and dal makhani? Two iconic restaurants in New Delhi have entered into a legal battle over the claim of inventing the two dishes that have become the face of North Indian cuisine across the world. Now, the question has come up for adjudication in the Delhi High Court with restaurant chain Moti Mahal suing renowned eatery Daryaganj for taking the credit for the two world-famous dishes.

The proprietors of Moti Mahal have claimed before the court that it was their predecessor Late Kundal Lal Gujral who invented butter chicken and dal makhani and restaurant chain Daryaganj is "misleading people into believing" that their predecessor was the inventor of the two dishes.

The plaintiffs sued the owners of Daryaganj restaurants for claiming that there is a relation between Daryaganj restaurants and Moti Mahal whose first branch was opened in the Daryaganj neighbourhood of Old Delhi.

Moti Mahal's owners have sought to restrain Daryaganj restaurants' proprietors from claiming that their predecessor Late Kundan Lal Jaggi was the inventor of these two dishes, which are now world-famous, and from using the tagline "by the inventors of butter chicken and dal makhani" on its website and various social media websites as well as print and electronic media.

Justice Sanjeev Narula recently issued a summons to the owners of Daryaganj restaurants and asked them to file a written statement in response to the suit along with an affidavit of admission or denial of documents of the plaintiffs.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on May 29.

For so many years, the two restaurant chains have claimed that that they invented butter chicken and dal makhani.

In its suit, Moti Mahal's owners have claimed that their predecessor Gujral created the first Tandoori Chicken and later went on to create butter chicken and dal makhani and brought it to India after partition.

They claim that in the early days, the unsold leftovers of chicken could not be stored in the refrigeration and Gujral began worrying about his cooked chicken drying out. He thus invented a sauce with which he could rehydrate them.

His invention was 'the makhani' or butter sauce (a gravy with tomatoes, butter, cream, and some spices) that now gives the dish a tangy and delectable taste, the claim goes.

"The invention of dal makhani is closely linked with the invention of butter chicken. He (Gujral) applied the same recipe with Black lentils and gave birth to dal makhani around the same time," Moti Mahal said in its suit.

During the hearing last week, the counsel for Daryaganj restaurants vehemently opposed the claims and contended that the suit was misconceived, baseless and lacking a cause of action.

The counsel argued that the defendants have not engaged in any false representation or claim, and the allegations made in the suit are far from truth.

Regarding a photograph of the Moti Mahal restaurant in Peshawar, the defendants' counsel said that it was established jointly by predecessors of both parties (Moti Mahal's Gujral and Daryaganj's Jaggi), thus invalidating any claims of exclusive rights over the image that the plaintiffs might claim.

(With PTI inputs)

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