Butter makes it better: An essential indulgence

Express News Service

Amid what has been an uncharacteristically Mumbai-like monsoon across the National Capital Region this year, the festive season is slowly inching towards us. I think it is one of the best times of the year. There is this fervour in the air as we gear up for our annual celebrations. Building up to this is Janmashtami, which by the time you get to read this, will be less than 24 hours away.

Given the very essence of Janmashtami and the tales of Lord Krishna, there could not be any doubt that if you are out to find the perfect food item that resonates with this festival, it is none other than the humble butter.

Call it makkhan in the home-churned form or anything else, you realise that our love for butter is hard to rival. From paranthas to Daulat ki chaat and Delhi’s legendary butter chicken—there is a wee bit of butter in almost everything that I can imagine today.

So much so that the debate around who actually invented the butter chicken will most likely never be put to rest with utmost conviction. In its purest form, butter chicken adds warmth and heft of butter to the chicken gravy, making it silky yet savoury. It is something that you cannot ever avoid if you are in the capital city.

Even though there is no actual metric for this, you will probably find more stalls in Delhi selling butter chicken than you can ever eat. The reputation of this butter-laden dish can even be felt in the south—at ITC’s Grand Chola, Chennai. Its legendary fine dining restaurant, Avartana, serves a multi-course menu, of which one item is the butter chicken and a mini parantha. This melt-in-the-mouth affair is something that you will remember forever.

Talking of paranthas, it is hard to imagine them in Delhi without a big scoop of butter on top. At home, the staple breakfast serving of paranthas comes with home-churned makkhan—or white butter, as you may call it.

What is interesting is that it is not just the taste that the butter contributes to—it also brings nutritional value to the food that you eat. In the months of winter, adding scoops of butter to filling paranthas keeps the body warm. The flatbreads, of course, are among the easiest to be made for a quick breakfast, and the homemade butter served as the perfect companion in the harsh north-Indian winters.

But it is not just the savoury meals where butter plays its part. The classic butter biscuit (or biskoot, with pistachios embedded in them) has been a staple in NCR for as long as the memory goes. In fact, some of the city’s legendary bakeries, which have been around since as long as Independence, continue to serve some of the best butter cookies. The humble cookie is ever-present in chai-nashta time in Delhi, as it is in other parts of the country as well.

In its modern avatar, bun-maska, the Maharashtrian classic snack of a sweet bun lathered with salted butter, has also found its way to the city. It is still not a street snack the way you’d spot it in Mumbai, but the ubiquity of butter is such that it can hardly be monopolised by any single region of India.

Then, there is, of course, the Daulat ki chaat that uses malai—churned clotted cream—as part of a savoury evening snack. Every tourist across India would know that this is one snack to be savoured, if you are in Old Delhi.

I could go on and on about how butter transforms everything—including the advertising industry (we are looking at you, Amul). Honestly, is there anything at all that a hearty dollop of butter cannot make better?

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