Fowl play

June 19, 2010

Do you remember where you had the best butter chicken in your life?

I do, though my memory, borrowing the name of Kamala Markandaya’s novel, is otherwise like ‘nectar in a sieve’.

Two years ago, we had briefly stayed at a royal haveli in Surajgarh, an obscure village in Rajasthan’s Shekhawati district, famous for its frescoes.

The mehman nawazi at the haveli was exemplary: From custom-made royal meals to letting just the two of us spend a romantic evening sipping on drinks by the pool, everything was tailor-made into a dream.

Butter chicken (Photo_Mind/Flickr)

The highpoint of the jaunt was a mean butter chicken the cooks from the royal kitchen of Sailana served us. The dish was a lesson in restraint, honesty and balance that all chefs must possess, but few have.


Makhani or the buttery sauce didn’t overwhelm the chicken; the tomato puree, unlike in most of the eateries, wasn’t poured from sachets but was made from garden-fresh tomatoes; the cashew paste, with its irritating flavour-altering properties, did nothing more than being part of the whole magic. Even the coriander used to garnish the dish was picked up by the gardener even while the cooking was going on.

But the ‘It factor’ of the dish was the quality of the chicken; rather, it was a juicy wild fowl hunted down in the arid blotches surrounding the haveli — a fantastic deviation from tasteless broilers that ruin dishes in city restaurants and homes.

The pieces were boldly carved out — i still remember the jumbo drumsticks looked like they always should — and swam in a gravy that would give Moti Mahal Delux chefs a serious complex.

The royal waiters served us a mildly spiced pulao and tandoori rotis to go with the chicken, but after a while, i asked for a second helping of the chicken and literally slurped all the gravy by itself.

While chatting with the maitre d’, i found out that Maharaja Vikram Singhji personally decides the menu of the restaurant and is himself a superlative chef, so much so that the Taj had flown him and Maharani Chandra Kumariji down to Bangalore to whip up elaborate dishes for a 10-day Sailana food festival.

I haven’t attended the Bangalore food festival, but such was the effect of that magical meal in Surajgarh that i haven’t touched butter chicken in Delhi since 2008.

PS: Please let me know how your date with butter chicken went.


2 Responses to “Fowl play”

  1. Sharmi said

    MIne went really well, too, courtesy the wild fowl! I am almost reminded of the taste now, thanks to your spicy writeup. 🙂

  2. netdhaba said

    Thanks so much for your comment.
    Let’s go to Surajgarh again for the butter chicken 🙂

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