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Le Taj, Time Out Market Montréal
Photograph: @montrealrestauranttour / Instagram

Here's why a recipe for butter chicken from 1984 is the best in Montreal

Those who know it love it: Le Taj has romanced Montreal with its recipe for butter chicken ever since it opened in 1984.

JP Karwacki
Written by
Tommy Dion
Translated by
JP Karwacki

Welcome to the Food Envy series, where we take a look at some of the dishes we've particularly enjoyed at Time Out Market Montréal because we think you'll love them as much as we did. This week, we're doing a deliciously deep dive into the bowls of butter chicken that have helped to turn Le Taj into the Indian fine dining institution this city has known and loved since it first opened in 1984.

Butter chicken has had a real and long-lasting love affair with Montrealers, but it wasn't always that way. Back in 1984, when Vinod Kapoor founded the very first Indian gourmet restaurant in Quebec, he couldn't have known that his recipe for butter chicken—tweaked for local palates—and his restaurant would still be going strong nearly 40 years later.

It's a tale of diasporic adaptation, of butter chicken and Quebecers, and of love at first sight from day 1: That's what we learned by talking to Kabir Kapoor, Vinod's son, who admits that the Taj's butter chicken recipe has not always been the most authentic one. It is, however, the one that can be found in northern India, home of the Kapoor family.

"When my father put our family recipe on the menu in 1984, he quickly realized he had to modify it," Kabir told Time Out Montreal. "Back in 1984, Montrealers weren't ready for that much spice!"

Even though Vinod had no restaurant experience, he certainly had a restaurateur's flair for creating a butter chicken to suit his customers' tastes; just as aromatic, but softer, creamier and a little sweeter: With that, the "Taj Style" butter chicken was born.

That's the recipe for butter chicken that's found at Le Taj in Time Out Market Montreal: Tasting it, it's clear why this recipe has won over its customers and is still the bestseller at the parent restaurant, located blocks away.

The tomato base coating the tandoor baked chicken pieces is silky and rich, with a comforting flavor profile where the scent of cardamom, clove, coriander and garlic coax and seduce your tastebuds. There's even a hint of citrus: is the addition of orange juice part of the secret recipe? Whether it is or not, it's just all the better when dipping some soft naan bread in this orange-coloured concoction until the last drop of sauce is swiped up.

While butter chicken remains the bestseller, that won't stop the team from adding a few other beloved items such as tandoori chicken, as well as a few curries with distinctive flavors. Whatever you eat here, it's delicious and time honored for good reason.

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