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Butter Chicken

As I step into the bustling streets of Delhi, the air is infused with a tapestry of aromas that mingle and dance in the humid air. It is here, amidst the vibrant chaos, that I discover one of India's most beloved culinary treasures – Butter Chicken. A dish that embodies the soul of this country, a symphony of flavors that beckons me to indulge in its saucy charm.

As I sit at a modest street-side eatery, a cloud of spices envelops me, awakening my senses with every breath. The tantalising scent of ghee, mingling with the pungent notes of garlic and ginger, beckons me closer to the open kitchen. There, in a sizzling pan, tender pieces of marinated chicken surrender themselves to a fiery, fragrant tomato gravy.

With each bite, I am transported on a culinary pilgrimage. The tender morsels of chicken melt in my mouth, embraced by the luscious, creamy tomato sauce that boasts a velvety texture, generously infused with fenugreek, garam masala, and other secret spices passed down through generations. The richness of the dish is balanced by the tangy sweetness of tomatoes, a harmonious blend that exemplifies the heart of Indian comfort food.

The recipe for Butter Chicken is a masterpiece of complexity, yet its preparation is an art form that requires patience and precision. So, let us embark on this flavorful expedition and bring the taste of India to your very own kitchen.

Butter Chicken Recipe for 4 People


- 500g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces

- 1 cup plain yogurt

- 3 tablespoons lemon juice

- 1 tablespoon garam masala

- 1 tablespoon ground cumin

- 1 tablespoon paprika

- 1 teaspoon turmeric

- 1 teaspoon chili powder (adjust to your spice preference)

- 4 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)

- 1 large onion, finely chopped

- 4 cloves garlic, minced

- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

- 1 can (400g) diced tomatoes

- 1 cup heavy cream

- 2 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)

- Salt, to taste

- Fresh cilantro, for garnish


1. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, half of the garam masala, half of the cumin, half of the paprika, turmeric, and chili powder. Add the chicken pieces and coat them thoroughly with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or ideally, overnight for maximum flavor.

2. In a large skillet or pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of ghee. Add the marinated chicken pieces, allowing them to cook until lightly browned on all sides. Once done, remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside.

3. In the same pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee. Sauté the chopped onion until softened and translucent. Add the minced garlic and grated ginger, cooking for another minute until the fragrances meld.

4. Pour in the diced tomatoes and their juices, stirring well to combine. Let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes, allowing the tomatoes to break down and create a rich base.

5. Carefully transfer the tomato-onion mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Return the pureed sauce to the pan, and bring it to a gentle simmer.

6. Gradually stir in the heavy cream, remaining garam masala, cumin, and paprika. Allow the sauce to thicken and develop for about 5 minutes.

7. Add the cooked chicken back to the pan, incorporating it into the luxurious tomato gravy. Sprinkle the dried fenugreek leaves over the top, crushing them slightly to release their flavor.

8. Let the Butter Chicken simmer for an additional 10 minutes, ensuring the chicken is fully cooked and the flavors have melded together.

9. Taste and season with salt as needed. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro before serving.

Equipment Needed:

- Large bowl for marinating chicken

- Large skillet or pan

- Blender or food processor

Commonly Made Mistakes and Points of Care:

1. Marinating Time: To achieve the best flavor, allow the chicken to marinate for at least 2 hours or, even better, overnight. This step is crucial for tenderizing the chicken and infusing it with the aromatic spices.

2. Creamy Texture: Be cautious not to add the heavy cream too quickly, as it can cause the sauce to curdle. Gradually stirring it into the tomato mixture and allowing it to heat gently will help avoid this issue.

3. Spice Levels: The level of heat in Butter Chicken can vary depending on personal taste. Adjust the amount of chili powder to suit your preference, ensuring it's enjoyable for everyone at the table.

4. Consistency of Sauce: If the sauce appears too thick, you can add a splash of water or chicken broth to achieve the desired consistency.

5. Fenugreek Leaves: Dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi) are essential for the dish's distinctive flavor. However, if you can't find them, you can substitute with a small amount of fenugreek seeds or omit them altogether.

Embrace the flavors of India with this unforgettable Butter Chicken recipe, and let it transport you to a land of spice-laden wonders, just as it did for Anthony Bourdain on his culinary journeys. Enjoy the meal, and savor every bite with an adventurous spirit!

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