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Dec 8, 2009 09:21 PM

Where can I find a butter chicken recipe that taste like a restaurant?

Butter Chicken is a pretty variable commodity, but I've had very good butter chickens in multiple restaurants in the Bay Area and I have been trying to make it at home. I've looked at dozens of recipes online and tried various things probably 10 different times but I can't get close to obtaining the restaurant flavor. The only thing I have figured out so far is that blending things at some point is a must, and I believe cashew nuts are an important component of the flavor. Does anyone else have any ideas?

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  1. Find your favorite restaurant version and get a serving to go. Taste it, examine it closely, have potential dried herbs/spices on the side and smell those in between tastes. Refrigerate it overnight and repeat the process the next day (and the day after).

    Eat it in person and ask a waiter how they make it/what's in it. Call the restaurant and ask a couple of allergy related questions. For instance, "Does the butter chicken contain nuts?" should answer whether or not it has cashews.

    Online recipes tend to be either people who have absolutely no idea what they're doing and just taking wild guesses (that are almost always wrong), or the recipes are from books. Books are great for authentic Indian cooking, but, to date, there's never been a cookbook that's successfully captured the true essence of short order restaurant cuisine.

    Lastly, don't be afraid to doctor up your butter chicken with ingredients you may not use a lot at home, such as MSG, sugar, red food coloring and an obscene amount of fat. Indian restaurants may have a pretty posh decor, but, at they end of the day, it's short order cooking, and short order cooking uses every trick in the book.

    2 Replies
    1. re: scott123

      "Books are great for authentic Indian cooking, but, to date, there's never been a cookbook that's successfully captured the true essence of short order restaurant cuisine."

      Try "The Curry Secret" by Kris Dhillon.

      1. re: greedygirl

        "Try "The Curry Secret" by Kris Dhillon."

        I did. It's a nice premise, but it fails completely in execution.

        The failure of cookbooks to capture short order Indian cuisine is predominantly a class issue. Cookbook authors are upper class. The intelligentsia. Short order cooks/restaurateurs are working class and have no connection to the publishing world. The upper class attempts to appeal to our loftier interests by making wholesome healthy meals, while the working class panders to our basest of impulses by loading the dishes with unhealthy but delicious ingredients. Culinarily, they're two different universes, and bridging them, so far, has proven to be impossible.

        Chinese short order cooking- exactly the same deal.

    2. Depends on which variant you want. If the nut one is what you want, I'd consider the Hyderbaadi Brand Butter Chicken Masala. Should be avail at a decent sized Indian Mkt. MDH and Shan also make a BC masala, but I think Hyderbaadi brand is a more involved one using crushed cashews and blended browned onions. You might think "no way, my favorite restaurant only grinds their own spices just after toasting them, and prepares each dish only after I order it."

      Maybe they do.

      If you haven't already, try a pre-packaged masala if you want "restaurant" taste. If that doesn't net you anything you'd like, then you'll have to ask the folks at the restaurant. A recipe from a random person on line or a book is not gonna get you the stuff that a restaurant in the Bay Area makes. You might be surprised at how accessible the folks at the restaurant really are. They might be thrilled to share their recipe and their method to you. Regional differences vary greatly just like here in the U.S. Theirs might be different than someone else's. Or, they really might just have a food service sized bucket of Shan Brand Butter Chicken masala, and make a decent sized batch of it every few days.

      When I make it at home, I use shan brand, but I doctor it up with fresh ingredients (garlic ginger, hing, chile.) Mine is better than most restaurants I go to (for my tastes, anyway.)
      Also, usually Shan brand is way salty, I only use 1/2 of the masala amt that the recipe on the boxes call for. Hope you find what you are looking for - please report back. Would love to try the recipe you find - I'm a total Indian food hound. I make it at home at least once every two weeks. Actually, I'm making a Saag Paneer, Aloo Gobi, and a Murg Vindalo this afternoon.

      1. get the bombay palace cookbook.

        and the dish there has almonds on top, not cashews inside.

        julie sahni's recipe is just fine.
        here's some other recipes:
        you must make the dish from leftover tandoori chicken.

          1. I know what you're saying about restaurant-style Indian cooking. It's entirely different from homestyle. Have you spent time (and I mean hours!) on the two British Indian Restaurant (BIR) cooking sites? --



            They both aim to reproduce BIR curries, the first through member recipes, and the second with (supposedly) actual restaurant recipes. Like Kris Dhillon's recipes, most start with a base sauce that's seasoned for each particular curry. I don't think that's how posh Indian restaurants cook, but it's certainly the case with typical curry houses and takeaways. There are many base sauces and recipes to choose from, and that's where the difficulty lies -- choosing the proper one.

            I don't fancy Butter Chicken myself, but I recently cooked (from the first site) Cory Ander's Chicken Tikka Masala, (similar to butter chicken?). I made a few changes, and my husband was quite happy with it. I'm sure members of both sites would help you in your quest.