Episode 30: Old Monk + Butter Chicken

Photo credit: Old Monk + Protech

In this episode, we discuss the iconic Indian dish, butter chicken, with the help of Navjot Arora and Sushil Malhotra of contemporary Indian Soul Food restaurant, Old Monk. Learn the origins of this dish, why it represents Indian soul food, and what makes it so delicious.

First things first, we reflect on the best things we ate in the past week. We both had unconventional answers: Lynda made a healthy, umami Asian-inspired dressing, while Iris had a home-cooked lasagna, which is rare in Hong Kong--a city that is obsessed with eating out.

Iris then starts explaining what butter chicken is and how it's usually made. She also unpacks the history of the dish, its Punjabi roots, and how the partition of British India led the creators of this dish to move to Delhi, where they invented butter chicken.

Lynda then introduces our guests Navjot Arora and Sushil Malhotra. Navjot is the Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Old Monk, while Sushil is the CEO & Co-Founder of Café Spice Restaurant Group, and Old Monk is part of that acclaimed family of restaurants. The two men then tell us about their backgrounds and how they came to work in the industry in New York and open Old Monk.

Navjot tells us about the differences you might find between butter chicken in India versus butter chicken in the west. Americans tend to prefer boneless white chicken meat, whereas traditionally, bone-in thigh meat is used. Old Monk serves the best of both worlds, with boneless thigh meat. He also talks about how, in India, butter chicken is more popular in the north. This is not only because it is where the dish was created, but also because of the historic abundance of dairy in the north and the fact that many other parts of the country are vegetarian. 

Navjot and Sushil then talk about how the flavor profile in butter chicken hits all the marks, which is probably why it is so popular, and how butter chicken outsells all their other dishes at Old Monk.

23:42 "I think there is still a fair amount of the population who still feel Indian food equates to spicy and curry. That's been one of our missions--to break down that barrier." - Navjot on American perceptions of Indian cuisine.

Finally, Navjot and Sushil talk about trends they are seeing in Indian cuisine and share their favorite moments at Old Monk thus far. Also, listen to the end to find out the funny story behind the restaurant name Old Monk!

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