Dal Makhani: The humble origins of a North Indian favourite!

You meet a North Indian foodie and they’ll tell you this – No meal is complete without a hearty dose of Dal Makhani – a dish of black lentils cooked with butter, tomato and cream. It is thus, not surprising that Dal Makhani is not just a household name in India but internationally as well. While ITC has put Dal Makhani on the world map with their Dal Bukhara, back home, it wasn’t them who put the humble black lentil on a restaurant menu.

Recently, there was a huge debate about who invented the modern day Dal Makhani.

The black lentil, or black urad, gained prominence after Kundan Lal Gujral, the founder of the Moti Mahal chain, put it on the culinary map.

He revolutionized the way the black lentil was cooked by cooking it in a tomato gravy rather than yogurt. This idea was born from his earlier accidental invention where he tried to find out a replacement to keep his chicken tikkas from drying out. Thus, a delicious tomato gravy was born that became the base for a Punjabi favourite, Butter Chicken. It was then decided to have a similar ‘shahi’ vegetarian version for the restaurant menu. Lo and behold, Moti Mahal ended up with a dish that would go down in history – Dal Makhani!

The cooking of the Dal Makhani varies with restaurants. While most of them cook in a tomato gravy and a dollop of butter finished with cream, the best way to get the most amount of flavour in the dal is to cook it overnight on charcoal. The slow and continued cooking kicks in a robust flavour in the dal that is unmatched by any amount of butter and cream. It also ensures that the dal isn’t too heavy on the stomach.

Wherever it might have found its origins, the Dal Makhani has today become a household name. The lip-smacking flavour and the beautiful addition of tomato, butter and cream has made the humble black lentil a must-try at restaurants serving Desi meals.

The Box8 version of Dal Makhani is slow cooked, simmered overnight and made with a lot of love. Its claim to fame? It tastes homely, hearty and oh-so heavenly.

Where have you tried your favourite Dal Makhani? Let us know in the comments.

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