Ranveer Brar Shared The Touching Story Behind Dal Makhani

To be a chef is to know food as well as you know yourself, and a huge part of understanding the dishes we love can come from delving deeper into their origins. Chef Ranveer Brar recently shared a video on social media enlightening his followers about the history of one of India’s very favourite comfort foods. Dal Makhani. 

Though many trace the ancient origins of dal makhani to the Mughal era, there is one very particular story that directly sparked its popularity in modern India. A story of friendship, resilience and determination that begins in pre-partition Peshawar. As the story goes, it was the early 1920s and Kundan Lal Gujral, Thakur Das Magu, and Kundan Lal Jaggi worked together at Mukhey da Dhaba, which was run by Mokha Singh in Peshawar. However, circumstances led to Mokha Singh's declining health, ultimately resulting in the sale of the establishment to Gujral. The diner was then renamed Moti Mahal

Following the partition, Gujaral relocated to Delhi, where he continued the legacy, establishing Moti Mahal as the iconic culinary institution it is today. In 1947 when the partition was underway, the three friends undertook the journey to delhi and once there, they needed to find something to do. They procured a small thara (a type of booth) and revived the concept of Moti Mahal in Daryganj

A distinctive specialty of West Pakistan was the pairing of black whole urad dal (black gram) with piping hot rotis, an offering that Gujaral brought with him across national boundaries, incorporating it into his dhaba's menu. Yet, the turning point for the conventional preparation of black urad dal arrived when Gujaral introduced a unique twist by infusing cream and tomato as a souring agent – rather than the regular dahi – into the dal

The inception of Dal Makhni is intricately linked with the creation of Butter Chicken. In a bid to prevent the chicken skewered on tandoor racks from drying out over the course of the day, Gujaral ingeniously conceived the notion of gently simmering the chicken in a rich gravy consisting of tomatoes, butter, cream, and select spices, which kept it moist. This very same culinary concept was applied to his black urad dal, giving birth to the creation known as Dal Makhani, and this innovation occurred around the same period.

The dish was an instant success, Moti Mahal became the centre of a cooking style that changed the course of Indian cuisine and today we love their dishes as if they were our own. Like so much Indian food, Dal makhani was genius and innovation born of necessity, and as Chef Brar says, “The true dal makhani is the result of friends getting together after partition. It’s a result of the refugee drive to excel. It is the story of Moti Mahal.”