Butter Chicken Madness

Creamy, deliscious spicy flavorful butter chicken. This was everything my cuisine turned out not to be the first time I made it. I followed my recipe, which came from eCurry, step by step however some parts weren’t clear in the directions. For example, the blogger states to just add salt. How much salt am I supposed to know how to put? I also managed to put more lemon juice than suggested, by accident of course, so my first trial was a tad bit too lemony. I had a lot of difficulty looking for some of the ingredients to make the butter chicken. Going from Lucky to Safeway and finally Trader Joes I couldn’t find black cardamoms or dried fenugreek leaves. I suddenly remembered that there was a Middle Eastern market not to far from my house. I quickly jumped in to my car and rushed over to the market. Upon arriving there I found that they also didnt have the black cardamoms I was looking for but they did sell the green ones. This was good enough for me and I figured skipping one little ingredient would affect the taste too much. With all my ingredients in hand I went home and was eager to begin cooking.


Ingredients: (serves 4-6)
1. 2 lbs chicken , washed, patted dry and cut into small pieces – (feel free to use chicken with or without bones, chicken thighs or a combination of breast and thighs)

  1. 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  2. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  3. salt
  4. oil/butter/ghee to baste while grilling

For marinade:

  1. 3/4 cup plain yogurt, strained/hung or use 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  2. 1.5 teaspoons kasuri methi/dried fenugreek leaves
  3. 1 teaspoon turmeric
  4. 1 teaspoon garam masala
  5. 1.5 tablespoon mustard oil, or any other cooking oil to substitute
  6. 1.5 tablespoon ginger paste
  7. 1/2 tablespoon garlic paste

For the sauce/Makhani Masala:

  1. 2.5 inch fresh ginger, made into a paste
  2. 8-10 cloves of garlic, made into a paste
  3. 2-4 fresh green chili pepper, slit
  4. 4 tablespoon melted butter
  5. 4 green cardamoms
  6. 1.5 – 2 inch cinnamon sticks
  7. 3 cloves
  8. 1 black cardamom
  9. 1 teaspoon methi/fenugreek seeds
  10. 3-3.5 cups tomato puree
  11. 1 tablespoon red chili powder/cayenne pepper/paprika or to taste
  12. 10 almonds, soaked, peeled and made into a paste
  13. 1 teaspoon garam masala
  14. 2 teaspoons kasuri methi/dried fenugreek leaves, crushed
  15. 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  16. 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon heavy cream

I began my cuisine by prepping my chicken, which pretty much meant washing it and cutting it into small pieces. The directions weren’t too clear on how small to cut the chicken but since I saw pictures and have had butter chicken before I assumed they weren’t supposed to be too small.My biggest difficulty with cutting the chicken was that I didn’t have the right knife that would cut through the chicken smoothly. I felt like I almost cut my hand several times because the chicken was too slippery and the knife wasn’t sharp enough to cut it.



After washing and cutting my chicken into somewhat of cube shapes, i prepared the yogurt and mixed in the chili powder, salt, ginger-garlic paste, lemon, and garam masala. As I added this mixture to the chicken, I read through the instructions and realized I had to leave this in the fridge for 3 hours or more! I couldn’t believe that I missed that part of the instructions when I started. Considering the fact that I started cooking at around 8pm, I felt that I was never going to finish making this meal, so I marinated the chicken for two hours instead, feeling that it would be enough.


While this marinated I prepared the second half of the cuisine, which included the tomato puree boiled with cinammon sticks green cardamoms, and cloves ImageImage

ImageMost importantly I had to cut the green chills and add it to the tomato puree mixture to give it that extra kick. One thing I found difficult during this part was that in the directions, eCurry didn’t really inform on how to cut the green chilis. This lead me to just assume to leave the chills slit the long way instead of being finely chopped.


After cooking the chicken and bringing the tomato puree to a boiling point I was able to add the chicken to it and finally bring the cooking to an end. While there were no directions on how to make rice, I decided to just make my own recipe which was simply two cups of rice, three and a half cups of water, a table spoon of butter, salt and rice seasoning.



Throughout this experience I have learned that I can learn how to cook something very difficult and not native to me, however I completely managed to fail at making the rice. One might question how someone fails at making the easiest side dish in the world. The answer is very simple, I was in a rush to finish the meal that I cooked the rice on high heat which burned it. As for the butter chicken, it turned out a success after the second time by minimizing the amount of lemon juice I put and adding some salt to taste. Since there was enough for my family at home they decided to give it a try. One of my sisters said it was very nasty ad just ate the rice, my father, who always tries to be supportive to me it was good and my mother didn’t even give me any feedback, so I took her silence as a positive feedback until she decides to comment on the butter chicken. The funniest reaction of all was from my youngest sister. We decided to take a picture to show how much we enjoyed the meal. ImageWhile my plate is empty because I enjoyed what I considered successful butter chicken, my sister pretend to enjoy it in the picture. The second we were done she spit it out and squinted her face saying, “I’m sorry Hana I love your cooking but I cant eat this. It has too much tomato sauce and I just don’t like it!” My mother also critiqued me and stated that the lemon was too strong and there was too much tomato sauce with a very strong tangy taste.


Some Background on Butter Chicken

Every ethnic food has some background history to it. You might think that some people in some country just all decided to cook this one dish for no apparent reason, but in reality there is a story behind it. While the history of butter chicken isn’t all that clear, there’s one thing that matches up between each story that I read, it started with a man named Kundan Lal Gujral, a man who was a famous chef in the city of Peshawar.  He was known to make the best butter chicken also known as Murgh Makhani) in the entire area and  finally opened his own restaurant called Moti Mahal in 1947. The way the dish originally came about was when the chef’s would recycle the leftover  juice from the Tandoori chicken and added butter and tomato to the sauce pan and finally added the chicken, thus Butter chicken was created.  This chicken dish later became very popular in the Sikh community  and all over India for that matter. Finally it spread around the world and is found in almost every Indian/ Pakistani restaurant in the area. Traditionally it is eaten with naan and can also be served with rice.

Butter Chicken

Although I am Palestinian and grew up only eating Arabic food, Indian food became a major aspect of my life during high school. During my freshman year of high school I met an Indian girl who has grown to be one of my best friends up until today, Aysha. She introduced me to Indian food by inviting me over to her house a couple of times and I’d invite her over to my house for Arabic food. We both grew to have a love for one another’s ethnic dishes. When I would visit her home, I could smell the spices filling the air before I even set foot through the front door. The aroma of the rice and chicken and other flavorful foods her mom made filled the entire neighborhood. I really enjoyed Aysha’s mother’s spicy biryani. She somehow managed to make it just right so that it wasn’t so spicy where our mouths were on fire but just enough so we can taste the spices. She also had a very old home made recipe for butter chicken which was handed down from her grandmother  to her. She managed to get the orange color just right and had its own unique taste.



Since Aysha was a couple of years older than me, she graduated high school  before me and I was left without my best friend and her mothers delicious cooking! I then started looking for Indian restaurants and found a couple in the city. None of them were as satisfying as my friends mothers cooking, but it was still pretty good! When I came to SF State in 2010 I ended up having a lot of Indian friends, not on purpose of course, bringing my addiction to Indian food in to my life once again. I also had many of my non Indian friends who had the same love for the food just like me. While many people don’t like the strong, flavorful and most of the time spicy tasting food   I’ve grown a love for it and I even believe, the spicier the food the better! My favorite dish of all time so far has been the lamb biryani, served extra spicy! After having it several times at restaurants and at friends’ houses, I decided to try making this dish at home and it was a success! Since have made it several times I figured it was time to move on to my next favorite dish, the butter chicken. I’ve had this serval time at my friends house and I know that it will be a success once I make it. Because of my friends and having the bay area being so diverse and full of Indian restaurants I know that I will have a lot of support in making my butter chicken a success.

Butter Chicken