History of Chicken Changezi – An Old Delhi Classic

chicken changezi

Chicken Changezi doesn’t have the same popularity that Butter Chicken enjoys but both dishes had similar sort of origins. Both came out of the by lanes of Old Delhi. Butter chicken achieved superstar status through a combination of different factors and Chicken Changezi has pretty much remained where it started from. Gali Choodiwali near Jama Masjid, where it still enjoys cult status.

The Original Chicken Changezi

The dish isn’t that old and was introduced sometime in the ’90s. The outlet was called Hotel Al-Maaidah when it started. They changed the name to Chicken Changezi somewhere in the middle. They’ve now gone back to their original name. Before it became a restaurant, the place was a chicken stall and the family also had a milk business.

The Changezi was introduced in the 90’s as a wonderful combination of roasted chicken tossed in a gravy. The rotary grill is fairly common now, but in the early ’90s, it would’ve created quite a stir in Old Delhi. The original rotary grill was imported from the Middle East.

The Changezi chicken is made by cutting the roasted chicken into pieces and then cooked in an onion, tomato and yoghurt thickish gravy. Flavoured with garam masala and ajwain (carom seeds). The dish is quite tasty and has pulled me back on more than one occasion.

Changezi Pehelwan

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to meet the founder Mr. Fazil, popularly known as Changez Pehelwan. I’ve always been curious about the name and whether it has any Mongol or Gengis Khan connect. I asked Changez Pehalwan the reason behind the name and he told me a very interesting story.

In his younger days, the pehelwan (wrestler) of repute in Old Delhi was a gentleman by the name Sheikh Mukhtar. Apart from wrestling, he was keen on theatre and moved to Bombay to try his luck in Bollywood. He did get into the movies and one of his more popular roles was 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 in the movies. Changezi Chicken was named in honour of him.

Changezi Chicken though not popular as Butter Chicken, is now available in many restaurants across Delhi. But I recommend that you have this at the original shop in Gali Choodiwali near Jama Masjid. The ambience, is basic but the sense of history you get from this place is great. They also have an outlet in Daryaganj. Chicken Planet near Filmistan is also famous for Chicken Changezi and has been serving it for many years.

Gali Choodiwalan is off the touristy parts of Jama Masjid and slightly tougher to find. You’ll have to take a cycle rickshaw from Jama Majid to Gali Choodiwala and ask one of the shopkeepers for directions to Chicken Changezi. Click here for the location on Google Maps.

Happy hunting and chowder-on.