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The Story Behind Chicken Changezi

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Chicken Changezi doesn’t have the same popularity that Butter Chicken enjoys, but is equally worthy. Both dishes came out of the by lanes of Old Delhi. Butter chicken achieved superstar status through a combination of different factors and Chicken Changezi pretty much remained where it started from; Gali Choodiwali near Jama Masjid.

I’ve been eyeing this dish for many years wondering what’s the Mongol influence to it. It didn’t have any sort of Chinese-like flavours (Indian-Chinese??). I’ve always been seeing it’s well-lit board in Daryaganj and never knew about its origins in Gali Choodiwali. I was taken to the place by my foodie friend Sanhita Dasgupta, who told me ‘Aaj kuch special khilati hoon’ (I’ll make you have something special today). It’s not that common a dish, but is becoming popular day-by-day. You’ll also now find it creeping into home delivery menus across Delhi. But in Gali Choodiwali, this dish has a cult following.

The Original Chicken Changezi

The dish isn’t that old and was introduced sometime in the 90’s. I’m not sure if the outlet was called Chicken Changezi when it started, but that’s what it’s called now. Though I do know that before it was a chicken place, the family had a milk stall either here or somewhere close by.

Plus there are other contenders in Old Delhi who lay claim to the origin of this dish. The problem with Indian Food history’s that nothing’s written down. Changaezi as a dish itself, is a curious combination of things. The chicken is first roasted in a rotary grill. The grill has now become quite common, but in the early 90’s, in Jama Masjid. It’d have created quite a stir. After roasting the chicken is cut into pieces sand cooked in an onion-tomato-yoghurt thickish masala and some garam masala, with a prominent flavouring of ajwain. The dish itself is quite tasty and has pulled me back to have it on more than one occasion.

Changezi Pehelwan

Looking at the place and after tasting the dish, it did kinda feel special. So, curious-me, brimming-with-questions started my regular soul-searching. Luckily, Changezi Pehelwan (that’s what he’s called locally) happened to be there at that moment and patiently answered all my queries. When I asked him the reason behind the name, he looked at me for a few seconds. I dunno if he’d been ever asked that question. He replied saying that after he created this special dish with chicken that came out of the rotary grill, he named it Chicken Changezi in honour of Sheikh Mukhtar.

A wrestler of repute, originally from Gali Choodiwali, who then moved to Bombay to act in films. Sheikh Mukhtar played the role of Changez Khan in the 1957 movie by the same name. For the local boys of Gali Choodiwali, Sheikh Mukhtar was a big deal. A hero who made it out of their local akhada (wrestling practice den) and made it big. Changezi Chicken was named in honour of him.

You can now have Changezi Chicken in many different places across Delhi, but I recommend that you have this at the original shop in Gali Choodiwali near Jama Masjid in Old Delhi. It’s not much of an ambience, but the sense of history is excellent.

Sharing the location of Changezi Chicken in Daryaganj below, as I couldn’t find the online location to the original outlet. You can try the dish in Daryaganj, but do try the original first. Ask any auto /cycle rickshaw guy for Gali Choodiwali, when you’re in the Jama Masjid area.

Plus, I’ve not been able to find an online recipe, close to what I think I tasted. Hence haven’t been able to share one. Most online recipes get it wrong. One day perhaps! 

Location of the Changezi Chicken outlet in Daryaganj.

 

Happy hunting and Chowder-on!!

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