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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 Indian Chinese-like flavours. I’d always seen it as a 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 ’90s. 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.

Changezi is 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 ’90s, in Jama Masjid. It’d have created quite a stir. After roasting the chicken is cut into pieces and 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 akhara (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.

You can try the dish in Daryaganj, but do try the original one first. When you’re in the Jama Masjid area, ask any auto/cycle rickshaw guy to take you to Gali Choodiwali. You can then ask anyone for directions to Changezi Chicken. There are other also contenders in Old Delhi who lay claim to the origin of this dish. Sometimes its tough to confirm facts when it comes to food history, but I think Changezi Pehelwan can be given credit for this dish.

Happy hunting and Chowder-on!!

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