What does Butter Chicken mean to you? For those of us who hail from India, especially the North and Northwest regions, it's more than just a dish; it's a part of our identity, a treasure trove of memories, and a culinary love story. Did you casually savour it at your favourite eatery, or was it an eagerly anticipated event, something you couldn't wait for? Growing up in the charming city of Dehradun within a family deeply rooted in catering, Butter Chicken holds a special place in my heart. It's a dish that conjures up a symphony of flavours, textures, aromas, colours, and even sounds.
Accompanied by warm butter garlic naan and crisp sirca pyaz, my Butter Chicken experience was nothing short of enchanting.
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Here's How To Perfect The Taste, Texture, Colour And Aroma Of Butter Chicken:
Savouring The Flavour
The name "Butter Chicken" might sound simple, but it conceals a world of complexity. At its heart lies the humble tomato, the magical ingredient that infuses this dish with its umami richness. The combination of butter and cream tantalizes your taste buds, hitting that elusive sixth sense on your tongue known as "Kokumi." Few dishes can claim the dual distinction of being both umami and Kokumi-rich, but Butter Chicken is one of them. The charred chicken showcases the Maillard reaction, providing a delightful blend of sweet, nutty, and slightly bitter charred edges. The marinade's spices elevate the taste to a whole new level.
Indulging In Texture
When it comes to texture, I prefer a velvety, smooth, and creamy sauce. Achieving this perfection requires thorough cooking of tomatoes, cashews, onions, ginger, and garlic, followed by blending to create a smooth paste. The addition of butter and cream enriches the sauce. I savour the contrast between the firm exterior and tender interior of the charred chicken tikka.
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Aromas That Captivate
The aroma of Butter Chicken is a symphony in itself, thanks to two key ingredients and the timing of their incorporation. Whole green cardamom infuses the cooking tomatoes with a pleasant and satisfying fragrance. Kasuri methi, added at the end, imparts a unique aroma that sets this dish apart.
The Art Of Colour
For me, Butter Chicken is at its best when it boasts a vibrant orange hue. Achieving this colour requires a skilful blend of tomatoes, red chilli powder, and an array of spices. Let's not forget the tantalizing visual appeal of charred chicken tikka edges, mingling with the black-green strands of kasuri methi, garnished with a swirl of white cream and a dollop of creamy butter.
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A Symphony Of Sounds
The auditory aspect of the Butter Chicken experience is equally enchanting. It begins with the satisfying crunch of breaking a piece of crisp garlic naan. The sound precedes the actual taste, heightening the anticipation. Then, as you tear the chicken pieces, the velvety, buttery sauce adds another layer to this sensory journey.
Having spent the last 19 years as a chef, I've ventured beyond the traditional Butter Chicken. I've introduced two unique variations that have left diners raving. First, there's the White Butter Chicken, crafted by meticulously clarifying tomato juice, removing pigments, and reducing it to create a clear base. The result is a silky, ivory-hued masterpiece.
The second creation was inspired by my travels in Mexico, where I fell in love with "salsa verde," which translates to green sauce. Instead of traditional red tomatoes, I charred tart tomatillos in a tandoor, infusing them with a smoky, caramelised flavour. This transformed my Butter Chicken into a finger-licking, scrumptious delight with a hint of Mexican flair.
In the world of culinary exploration, Butter Chicken continues to captivate hearts and palates, evolving with every twist and innovation.
About the author: Mayank Istwal, a graduate of IHM Guwahati, is the executive chef of Musaafer, Houston, USA.