Butter chicken is one of the most amazing dishes known to humanity: creamy, sweet, buttery. The token description on most Indian takeout menus – “chicken in a creamy tomato curry sauce” does not do it justice at all. Butter chicken needs a new PR campaign.
I made butter chicken from scratch once, using my mom’s Better Butter Chicken recipe. This is a “healthy” version of butter chicken, and when she made it, the dish was actually quite tasty. When I made it, it tasted like crap. I don’t know where I went wrong, but it certainly took me a lot of time and effort to get there, even if it resulted in screwing it up badly. Luckily, there is a very easy way to guarantee a perfect butter chicken meal with much less stress.
A walk down any “ethnic” aisle in the grocery store will find a shelf of pre-made sauces of various countries of origins: the aforementioned butter chicken, pad thai, korma and all kinds of curry sauces, such as red and yellow curry. Yes, my butter chicken comes from a jar – and it is delicious.
Of all the butter chicken sauces we’ve tried (between sticky sauce powerhouse VH, President’s Choice regular and Blue Menu as well as Metro’s store brand), VH wins hands down. It’s nicely sweet and rivals what you’d get at any half-decent Indian take-out place. President’s Choice korma sauce, which should be a creamy sauce with nuts and dried fruit, was a disappointment. Thai Kitchen sauces are always perfect, and you only need a spoonful or two of their pad Thai sauce to make this tangy noodle dish.
Grabbing a jar or two can give you more time to give that chicken a crusty sear, cook your shrimp to perfection, or plan the most complimentary side dish. Every jarred sauce I’ve come across includes easy-to-follow directions and suggestions such as adding broccoli to your butter chicken, or serving your red curry shrimp over pasta.
Few people have time to squeeze and strain tamarind fruits or dissolve palm sugar chunks in order to make pad thai from scratch. Spending all day simmering and stewing away should be reserved for special occasions, not average weekday meals when you’re craving something different.
There’s absolutely no shame in it.