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Thursday, October 28, 2021

The legend of Daal Makhani

A restaurant in New Delhi recreates flavours from the bylanes of Daryaganj in Old Delhi

Written by Divya A |
Updated: January 3, 2020 12:00:28 pm
A serving of butter chicken

Born and raised in Peshawar, Kundan Lal Jaggi is often credited for making tandoori cuisine popular around the world. He was working at a small eatery in Peshawar’s Gora Bazaar. When he landed in Delhi after the Partition as a young refugee, he tried to recreate those flavours in the bylanes of Daryaganj by starting Moti Mahal restaurant in 1947 along with two others.

With time, the eatery added to the enduring charm of Butter Chicken and Dal Makhani, now a staple at every ‘north Indian restaurant’ around the world. Legend goes that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had once asked them to set up a tandoor at his official residence in Teen Murti, and cooks from the restaurant were called over to serve hot naans and kebabs live for him and his official guests.

Interiors of Daryaganj.

In 1992, the Jaggi family moved out of Moti Mahal, but two months ago, Jaggi’s grandson, Raghav, paired up with restaurateur Amit Bagga to start Daryaganj in Connaught Place, to bring back the same flavours in a new setting. The 50-cover restaurant has a 1950s look to its facade, but inside, a ceiling bar and art deco furniture bring in a modern twist. That they are basking in their legacy of serving the likes of Nehru, actors Sunil Dutt and Nargis, even Queen Elizabeth and Richard Nixon, is amply reflected on a huge wall covering the kitchen counter, showing pictures of many dignitaries relishing their recipes.

The menu highlights ‘The Original Butter Chicken’ and ‘The Original Dal Makhani’, but also offers a selection of tandoor grilled meats, seafood, and vegetables prepared live.

In the appetisers section, the Tandoori Malai Broccoli/ Tandoori Malai Jheenga and the Tandoori Fruit Chaat are a must-try, while beverages like Laung Elaichi and Kheera Shikanji add to the old-world charm. The main course is also made up of traditional recipes such as Saag Paneer, Moong Dal ka Keema and Pindi Chana Masala, and doesn’t deviate from its course even once to offer any kind of fusion food.

According to the founders, Butter Chicken came into being at the old restaurant “by chance” in 1947. One day, just before the restaurant was shutting, Jaggi had a truckload of refugees coming in for a meal. The kitchen wasn’t prepared to deal with this but they had a few portions of tandoori chicken. A Bengali gentleman suggested Jaggi to mix the chicken in a gravy made of tomatoes, butter and spices to make sure it serves everyone.

Even the Daal Makhni has a story. It is said a regular customer at the restaurant suggested the owners to make a version of urad dal fused with tomatoes and butter and slow cooked to give an equally good choice like butter chicken for vegetarians.

The dessert menu is limited with just four options — rasmalai, phirni, gulab jamun and kulfi on the stick — but when the idea is to evoke the unsung flavours of nostalgia, less is more.

Meal for two: Rs 2,000 approx Address: Regal Building, Connaught Place Contact: 9355111947

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