Two rival restaurant chains, whose founders were once associated, each claim the authorship of a flagship dish of local gastronomy. Justice will look into the conflict.
Cockfight before Indian justice. Two rival restaurant chains clash over the authorship of the recipe for “butter chicken” (butter chicken), a signature dish of local gastronomy of which they each claim the invention. One of Delhi’s oldest restaurant chains, Moti Mahal, has taken on its rival Daryaganj in the capital’s High Court.
In a 2,000-page complaint, Moti Mahal accuses its rival of unfairly taking credit for creating the recipe for chicken with a creamy red sauce combining cream and knobs of butter, as well as that of dal makhani, a preparation of cooked black lentils. over low heat served in a cream and tomato sauce.
“The fact that we are the inventors of butter chicken and dal makhani is well documented”assures Monish Gujral, 57 years old, owner of Moti Mahal. “We are not demanding that butter chicken cannot be served in a restaurant. But don’t say you invented this dish. I will not allow anyone to steal our heritage.”he added.
Nixon and Kennedy tasted butter chicken
It was in Peshawar, in what is now Pakistan, that Kundan Lal Gujral, grandfather of Monish Gujral, learned cooking and opened a restaurant in 1920. He had the idea of adding a creamy sauce rich in tomatoes to “pieces of tandoori chicken threatened to dry out”. After arriving in Delhi in 1947 at the time of the partition of India and Pakistan, the chef launched his first restaurant Moti Mahal.
Having become a true gastronomic institution, prestigious guests come to taste the restaurant’s creations, including Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru – a regular -, American President Richard Nixon and even First Lady Jackie Kennedy.
A betrayal between ex-associates?
However, the story turned sour after the appointment of the founder’s cousin, Kundan Lal Jaggi, as a partner. The latter’s heirs, founders of the Daryaganj chain, will not budge: their ancestor is the true father of butter chicken. According to them, the find dates back to 1947. The restaurateur having only a few pieces of tandoori chicken on hand to serve customers who arrived when the kitchen closed, one of the guests suggested that he add a sauce “so that everyone can enjoy a hearty meal”tells the restaurant chain.
But according to Monish Gujral, his competitor simply denies the family history. “We have been in business for 100 years”he exclaims in front of black and white photos of personalities adorning the walls of the restaurant. “They copied our atmosphere and our style”adds the restaurateur.
The plaintiff is seeking 20 million rupees (220,000 euros) in damages and wants Daryaganj to be prohibited from claiming paternity of butter chicken and dal makhani. Daryaganj said he was looking into the complaint before speaking on the issue. A next hearing is scheduled to take place in May.
This is not the first time that the origin of a star specialty of Indian gastronomy has been the subject of conflict. In 2018, the Delhi High Court looked into the case of “Tunday Kababi”, a popular recipe using grilled meat. The states of Odisha and West Bengal also both claim the invention of rasgulla, a dessert featuring a ball of cheese in a syrup bath.