Moti Mahal vs Daryaganj: Legal tussle over who invented dal makhani, butter chicken boils to surface

Both restaurant owners claim the recipes were created by their ancestors in Peshawar

Moti Mahal owners claim that dal makhani and butter chicken were invented by their ancestor Kundan Lal Gujral Moti Mahal owners claim that dal makhani and butter chicken were invented by their ancestor Kundan Lal Gujral | Moti Mahal

The Delhi High Court is hearing a case to settle a dispute over who actually invented dal makhani and butter chicken. The owners of Delhi's Daryaganj-based Moti Mahal restaurant have filed a lawsuit against the proprietors of Daryaganj restaurant over the latter's tagline: Inventors of Butter Chicken and Dal Makhani.

Moti Mahal claimed that Daryaganj restaurant is "misleading people" into believing that it is linked to Moti Mahal, whose first outlet was opened in Daryaganj area.

During a hearing on January 16, Justice Sanjeev Narula issued summons, seeking a written response from the owners of Daryaganj restaurant within a month. The court has also issued a notice on Moti Mahal's application for an interim injunction and scheduled the hearing for May 29.

Moti Mahal owners claimed that the recipes of the iconic dishes were concocted by their predecessor Kundan Lal Gujral while proprietors of Daryaganj alleged that it was invented by their predecessor Kundal Lal Jaggi. 

Moti Mahal owners, in the suit, claim that their predecssor Gujral invented the first tandoori chicken in Peshawar at a time when the India was undivided. Later he came up with the ideas for dal makhani and butter chicken and brought them to Delhi after partition.

Explaining how Gujral came up with the recipes, Moti Mahal stated that he was worried about the unsold leftovers of chicken getting dry and hence he concocted the makhani (butter) sauce to rehydrate it. They added that he used the same gravy made of tomatoes, butter, cream and spices to create dal makhani.

“The invention of Dal Makhani is closely linked with the invention of Butter Chicken. He [Gujaral] applied the same recipe with Black lentils and gave birth to Dal Makhani around the same time,” the lawsuit claimed.

However, the lawyers appearing for Daryaganj slammed the allegations on January 16, saying the entire lawsuit is "misconceived, baseless and lacking a cause of action." They pointed out that the first Moti Mahal restaurant was set up jointly by the predecessors of both parties -- Gujral and Jaggi -- when they were settled in Peshawar. 

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