Who created butter chicken & dal makhani—Moti Mahal or Daryaganj? Court to decide!

The question is laid before Delhi High Court, with Moti Mahal restaurant suing Daryaganj for taking credit for inventing the two world-famous dishes

Moti Mahal claims itself 'Original Inventors of Iconic Dishes' (clockwise from top left) butter chicken, dal makhani, tandoori paneer tikka & tandoori chicken. The iconic eatery is suing rival chain 'Daryaganj' over it (photo: @MotiMahal_India/X)
Moti Mahal claims itself 'Original Inventors of Iconic Dishes' (clockwise from top left) butter chicken, dal makhani, tandoori paneer tikka & tandoori chicken. The iconic eatery is suing rival chain 'Daryaganj' over it (photo: @MotiMahal_India/X)
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PTI

Who invented butter chicken and dal makhani?

The question has come up for adjudication in the Delhi High Court with restaurant chain Moti Mahal suing renowned eatery Daryaganj for taking credit for the two world-famous dishes.

The proprietors of Moti Mahal have claimed before the court that it was their predecessor, the late Kundan Lal Gujral, who invented butter chicken and dal makhani and that 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 relationship 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, the 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 www.daryaganj.com and various social media websites, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter and in print or 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 29 May.

For many years, both restaurant chains have each claimed that they invented butter chicken and dal makhani.

In its suit, Moti Mahal's owners have claimed that their Kundal Lal Gujral created the first tandoori chicken and later went on to create butter chicken, which used the same tandoori chicken in a curry, and brought it—along with his recipe for dal makhani—to India after Pakistan.

They claim that in the early days, the unsold leftovers of chicken could not be stored by refrigeration without drying out. He thus invented a sauce in which he could rehydrate the grilled pieces.

His invention, the 'makhani' or butter sauce (a gravy of tomatoes, butter, cream and some spices), now gives the dish a tangy and delectable taste. And it is also the flavour boost that makes a regular maa ki dal into a dal makhani.


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

During the hearing on Tuesday, 16 January, 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 the 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.

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