Epic legal case in India: Who Invented Butter Chicken?


In the bustling culinary scene of New Delhi, a legal tussle is unfolding over the origins of butter chicken, a dish synonymous with Indian cuisine. Two renowned restaurants are embroiled in a heated dispute, each asserting their claim as the original creators of this beloved recipe, which features chicken marinated and cooked in a tandoor, then simmered in a creamy, buttery tomato sauce.

Butter chicken has become a staple of Indian gastronomy, enjoyed in various settings from upscale dining establishments to street food vendors and numerous households across the nation. The contention arises between two Delhi eateries, each with a historical narrative tied to the dish’s invention, dating back to the late 1940s.

The story begins with two individuals named Kundan Lal, who migrated from Peshawar (present-day Pakistan) to New Delhi in 1947. Together, they established Moti Mahal, a restaurant that quickly gained fame and became a culinary landmark, attracting high-profile patrons including India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and international figures like former US President John F. Kennedy.


Decades later, the descendants of the two Kundan Lals present differing accounts of butter chicken’s inception, leading to a legal confrontation. The Moti Mahal restaurant chain, under the stewardship of Kundan Lal Gujral’s family, has initiated legal action against Daryaganj restaurant for asserting they are the dish’s inventors. Monish Gujral, a representative of Moti Mahal, emphasized the importance of preserving their legacy. In contrast, Amit Bagga, co-founder and CEO of Daryaganj Restaurants, maintains their intent was to honor the contributions of Kundan Lal Jaggi to Indian culinary heritage.

Amidst this familial dispute, a third claimant has emerged: the current proprietors of the original Moti Mahal restaurant, arguing that their establishment is the true birthplace of butter chicken and dal makhni, another iconic dish. They contend that without ownership of the restaurant where these dishes were first crafted, others cannot lay claim to their creation.

As the legal battle is set to continue in May, perspectives on the matter vary widely among locals. Sumit Jaiswal, a street vendor known for his unique butter chicken recipe, believes the dish cannot be owned by a single entity, underscoring the personal touch chefs bring to their versions.

For many in New Delhi, the debate over the dish’s origins is secondary to the culinary experience it offers. Residents argue that the essence of butter chicken lies in its taste and authenticity, rather than its historical pedigree. As this legal drama unfolds, it highlights the deep cultural significance of butter chicken in Indian cuisine and the collective ownership the community feels towards this cherished recipe.

author avatar
Staff Report

Keep Up to Date with the Most Important News

By pressing the Subscribe button, you confirm that you have read and are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use