Illustration by Vasanti Unka, originally created for The Spinoff.

What’s Beyond Butter Chicken all about?

  • This newsletter is for you if you’ve been to India, eaten food at an Indian friend’s house but then found it hard to recreate that at home.

  • It’s for you if you love Indian flavours but get overwhelmed with all the spices and ingredients.

  • It’s also for you if you migrated from India or perhaps you’re a second-generation migrant and have experienced a time when you’ve had to leave your culture at the door.

My dream

By sharing my stories of falling in love (again) with Indian food and how I reclaimed my kitchen, I hope to inspire you in your journey beyond butter chicken. I hope to show you how simple and forgiving cooking Indian can be.

That in fact, Indian food can be made in any home, even yours

Good food (and stories) take time to cook so here’s what you get when you support my work

  • A monthly audio masterclass where I cook a more complex Indian dish and record myself doing so. You can then listen and cook along with me on a lazy Sunday arvo. It’s like being on the phone to your mom while she guides you through what you’re doing. I share a new class every month and you get ALL the archives.

  • Access to the Beyond Butter Chicken hotline. A dedicated chat space only for paid subscribers where you can ask me questions, request recipes and more. Like your private Indian aunty, but younger.

  • Recipes and food stories more frequently, like weekly.

What you get when you subscribe for free

  • Recipes for Indian food made in the homes of other Indians. This is important because no self-respecting Indian “wastes money” by going to an Indian restaurant (my aunty said this, not me).

  • One serving of Indian food stories a fortnight, along with a history of the dish and a recipe. These are warm engaging stories and not the usual “fluff” above a recipe that’s on most food blogs these days.

And now, a bit about me, Perzen Patel

My mum says that she has never seen a child eat the way I used to – slowly, with my eyes closed, relishing each bite to the fullest. The family tale goes that mum first noticed me doing this when I was served a bowl of my Dolly Mumma’s prawn curry.

As a kid, I used to go to my grandma, Dolly Mumma's house every weekend and she'd always make me her amazing curry for lunch. Once, she cuddled and asked me what I wanted to inherit from her. I innocently told her that all I really wanted was a big, never-ending bowl of her curry that I could always have and remember her by.

Years passed and my mum and I moved to New Zealand.

While other kids brought sandwiches to school, I always got some Indian leftovers that mum had packed for me. "What's that, curry?", my Kiwi friends would ask while I waited near the microwave for my food to be heated. My eyes would roll inside my head. If only they knew the joys of eating a really great curry!

The culture shock, teenage bullying and weird-tasting-but-reminding-me-of-home butter chicken sent me into an Indian food hating phase of my life that I deeply regret.

I only learned how to cook Indian food when I got married.

It was just my luck that I married a proper Indian boy and had to resort to secret phone calls with mum to ensure my mother in law didn’t find out that I knew zero Indian cooking.

I started a food blog as a joke which soon morphed into a catering company.

Slowly, one curry at a time, I fell back in love with Indian food.

When I moved back to NZ in 2019, it was like Aotearoa was stuck in time.

People were still only talking about butter chicken!

As I started making new friends, I encountered old conversations.
"Oh you're from Mumbai? I love having curry," they'd say.
or, "I love Dahl but sadly I can never get it right,"
or, "I bought curry powder at the Indian shop but my curry didn't taste anything like the one I usually order. Not quite sure what to do with it now, aye."
It clicked that if I wanted my friends and those around me to experience the true taste of India, I had to do more than talk about it. I had to bring those flavours into their kitchen and show them how truly versatile they could be!

I wanted to show my fellow Kiwis that Indian spices can be used to make just about anything, from dahl to roast to pasta and everything in between.

That’s what I do now with my small business, Dolly Mumma where we help Kiwis cook tasty Indian meals quickly and easily.

Beyond Butter Chicken is part recipe blog, part an evolving cookbook.

I dream of holding my published, hard-bound cook book in my hands.

In my mind, that book is titled, Beyond Butter Chicken.

Part memoir, part cookbook, part Indian food guide is how I see it. But until that dream comes to life, I have this Substack. When you subscribe, you’re really reading this book before it gets published.

Stay up-to-date

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Thanks again and spread the word!

Subscribe to Beyond Butter Chicken

Food stories, audio cooking classes, spice tips and recipes that will help you cook tasty Indian food easily so that we all can go beyond butter chicken!


Perzen Patel
Indian food expert. The eating kind. When it came to Indian food, I spent years being ashamed, scared and confused with my food heritage. Until I started writing and fell back in love. Now, I tell stories that will help you go beyond butter chicken.