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Who invented butter chicken and dal makhani? Dispute between restaurants reaches Delhi HC

NEW DELHI: A dispute over the invention of butter chicken and dal makhani between two restaurants in the city — Moti Mahal and Daryaganj — has reached the Delhi High Court.

In its lawsuit, the plaintiffs Moti Mahal claimed that their founder Kundal Lal Gujral made the first dish of tandoori chicken and later made the butter chicken and dal makhani dishes and brought them to India after partition.

Since the 1950s, these dishes have been part of their brand identity, with their tagline being “Inventors of Butter Chicken & Dal Makhani”, Moti Mahal claimed in the suit.

The suit contended that the invention of dal makhani is closely linked with the invention of butter chicken. Gujral had applied the same recipe with black lentils and created dal makhani around the same time, it said.

As there was no refrigeration at the time, the unsold leftovers of chicken could not be stored. So, the chef, who was worried about his cooked chicken drying out, invented a sauce with which he could rehydrate them.

This thick sauce (the ‘makhani’) provides the dish a tangy and delectable taste, said the suit.

Senior counsel Sandeep Sethi, who appeared for the plaintiffs, argued that the defendants are misleading the public into believing that their Daryaganj restaurants are connected with the first Moti Mahal restaurant in Daryaganj.

On January 16, Justice Sanjeev Narula had issued summons to the owners of the Daryaganj restaurant to file their response in the matter.

Amit Sibal, senior counsel representing the defendants, submitted that they were only recently provided with a copy of the plaint paper-book and they need time to file a detailed reply. He vehemently disputed Sethi’s contentions, labelling the entire suit as misconceived, baseless and lacking a cause of action, saying they have not engaged in any false representation or claim, and the allegations made in the suit are far from truth.

Regarding a photograph of the Moti Mahal restaurant in Peshawar, Sibal said the restaurant was established jointly by predecessors of both parties, thus invalidating any claims of exclusive rights over the image that the plaintiffs might claim.

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