Even before I arrived in Delhi, I had heard of Aslam's famous butter chicken in old Delhi. The sheer excitement with which my cousins used to talk about it persuaded me to try it at the earliest. “But it's butter chicken, I have eaten it all my life. How different can it be?” I wondered.
Thus, I arrived at Chawri Bazaar one late evening with some of my siblings. I smiled as the narrow streets, bright lights, crowd, and clamour felt all too familiar to my Lucknowi heart. The journey to the restaurant from the metro station was fairly long. So we took an e-rickshaw. In Chawri Bazaar, it's a fact that e-rickshaws and people move at the same pace. Yet, some take it anyway.
When I arrived, I remember that the restaurant felt more like a tower: narrow and tall. If Rapunzel had a house in Old Delhi, this would be it. The entrance was a narrow one, next to a coal-powered grill with chicken sticks being grilled. Unlike what I had seen before, 500-gram slabs of Amul butter were being melted at another slab.
Read | Love, shuv tey chicken tikka
After two flights of stairs, we finally got a table. The crowd was a mixed one, yet many men of all age groups, and some families. The menu placed on a few tables was barely used as everyone knows their order: One full butter chicken, and some rumali roti (a thin flatbread that can literally be folded like a handkerchief).
When the dish arrived, I was taken aback as the gravy was truly made in butter and curd. The first bite in itself is enough to levitate in its flavor. The exhaustion, the crowd, and the noise dissipate and the long journey that you took suddenly feels worth it. The succulent chicken melts on your palate and the aroma of fresh butter intensifies the smoky taste. The sound of the Maghrib azaan plays in the distance, adding to the charm of the experience.
In Aslam's widely popular recipe, a large amount of melted butter is poured over a perfectly roasted chicken, a special masala sprinkled on top and served with onion rings. The butter makes the chicken softer, and the curd adds a creamy texture, making it a lip-smacking recipe. The menu is a small one of chicken and fish recipes, yet the place swarms with people. On weekends, the waiting hour can extend up to an hour.
According to local stories, Aslam, the proud owner of the brand went to Pakistan, where he saw grilled chicken being served in this manner and he decided to replicate it in Old Delhi.
Despite the years rolling by, Aslam's chicken continues to be an Old Delhi delicacy. Popular for almost a decade now, people have come to taste this delight from all parts of India, even abroad. A new branch has recently opened at Jamia Nagar in Okhla.
You can enjoy a full plate of Aslam's tandoori butter chicken for INR 500.