Butter Chicken Isn't Even My Favourite Dish: Chef Saransh Goila

The chef, who’s been serving his version of the Butter Chicken for the past eight years and successfully so, knowing that this one classic dish is always in some kind of debate, says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Published On Jun 28, 2024 | Updated On Jul 04, 2024


Everyone asks me, “Why Butter Chicken? Why not something else?’” says the Mumbai-based chef Saransh Goila who put his name to the famous dish and made it is his own. “The thing is, Butter Chicken isn’t even my favourite dish. I think in my case, what happened was I managed to pull off a solid version of it, and people liked it, so I thought ‘why not?’,” he adds. 

Fair enough. After eight years of giving India the Saransh Goila-version of the Butter Chicken, and doing a fine job at it, the chef is fairly confident that his signature dish has a good future. “I grew up in a vegetarian family and ate Butter Chicken for the first time when I was 20, at Invitation at Ashok Vihar – it remains my favourite butter chicken till date – and went ‘oh my god’. I’ve grown up eating Paneer Makhani or Paneer Butter Masala, whatever you want to call it, and still didn’t have a solid recipe for it,” he says. 


And this is where the fun lies. Saransh’s experiment actually began with trying to work on a recipe for the paneer. “There was a recipe that I had worked on when I was in college. And I just started grooming that recipe further. I fed it to my parents who admitted that it was really good. And then it circulated within the family, friends and our circles in Delhi. At first, I used to think they were just indulging me because they were my well-wishers, but when people outside my immediate community started asking for it, I knew there was hope,” he explains, adding, “People started asking for it and if they could get it catered or where was I selling the dish. By then I had moved to Mumbai from Delhi, aspiring to be a TV chef. And I started cooking that Butter Paneer as Butter Chicken, because I was also a converted non-vegetarian.” 

Saransh started using the same recipe of the paneer to make the chicken. But he had already applied a bunch of hacks to make the paneer gravy tastier for the vegetarians. “It was amped up with a lot of smokiness. I reduced the sugar, richness, but started feeling more like a gravy versus feeling like a korma or that heavy, essentially Mughlai restaurant-style dish. I wanted to make it more home-style, and added some kasuri methi etc, which otherwise you won’t see in a Butter Chicken. I took all those hacks and just applied it to my butter chicken recipe and it worked,” he adds. 


It began with dinners he’d host in Mumbai, and people he’d connect on Facebook and Twitter – this was from around 2013-2015 – and he’d typically cook one dish from the north, south, east, and west each at these dinners. “By default, that Butter Chicken would be the talk of the night eventually; it overshadowed anything else that I was putting out on the table, unfortunately or fortunately. So yeah, and then it became sort of like a hashtag on Twitter that my current best friends in Mumbai, Anish, Nikhil and Shweta, started. And then people started asking them where they could find this ‘Goila Butter Chicken’. I remember tweets from actors Uday Chopra and Nargis Fakhri too, and I didn’t even know how they managed to get some. But after that, it was like I could not escape it,” Saransh reminisces. 

It was in 2016 that he partnered up with his long-time friend, Vivek Sahani, and decided to open a cloud kitchen in Mumbai. This was before cloud kitchens were a thing. “I realised that if I don’t start a venture around this, I would be stupid,” he says. 

Saransh does admit that he wasn’t 100 per cent sure because it was also a time when chefs were choosing regional, going seasonal and so on. And to rely on one dish that is so common in North India to start a venture was risky, but “we wanted to change the Bombay scene when it comes to classic North Indian food and felt that the delivery route might be the most relevant for this kind of food because no chef was engaging in that. All they wanted that time was to pen great restaurants.” 

David Beckham with Saransh Goila

Ironic though, given that 2024 is the year when the cloud kitchen business is back in focus, with more champions coming forth to make it even more popular since Covid happened. “I feel like we're also lucky in that sense. We were two young boys who did not want to invest INR 2-3 crore of our family money into the business, or take a loan from friends. At that time, the cloud kitchen was like a low hanging fruit.” 

Eight years later this “low hanging fruit” is reaping the chef benefits and how. Currently present in 40 cities with 100 kitchens and an international presence in London – something Saransh admits he never even thought of – Goila Butter Chicken is doing the rounds and how. “You know how you see people selling sushi their entire life? That’s another way to look at why I sell butter chicken. I am not even saying mine is the best you’ll ever get. People have their favourites. In fact, in Delhi there are debates on which place has the best. All I am saying is that I pulled off a good recipe and people are liking it,” the chef says candidly.  


Recently acquired by Biryani By Kilo, Saransh says the conversation began about 18 months ago. “When we first started talking and Vishal (Jindal, founder of Biryani By Kilo) said that they had 2,200 employees, I went ‘WHAT!’ I was shocked; we were at 50. This was beyond my scope of work or vision. So, I have very high regard for the brand. Their acquisition of Goila Butter Chicken has only been a good thing. They are organised and have their processes pat down. And even though as founders we did wonder if our Butter Chicken would get lost in the crowd, I think we took the right decision, and they have the the best industrial kitchen I have ever seen," he says before signing off. 


Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article reflects the author(s) opinions and do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher and editor.

Photo: Featured Brand; Instagram/saranshgoila