This is the story of a man who embarked on a culinary adventure that forever altered the face and flavour of Indian cooking. This is the story of a man and a recipe that transformed the Indian palate's desire for succulence and spice in its cuisine.
This is the story of a man who created a butter-filled delight, giving ordinary chicken a unique flavour. Kundan Lal Gujral's innovation transformed the plebeian village tandoor for baking into a royal mode of cooking.
Let's discover the story of Kundan Lal Gujral, who is the man Behind the Brand Moti Mahal.
The first thing he did after opening his shop in Daryaganj was to put one of the six P's of his success formula into action. In Peshawar, he would frequently cater to the home of his friend and political stalwart Mehrchand Khanna, who later became a minister in Nehru's cabinet. Mr Khanna was the one who introduced Pandit Nehru to Gujral's famous tandoori chicken after partition. Nehru inquired about the inventor, and Meherchand named Kundan lal Gujral.
Following that, Motimahal specialties became a must at Nehru's banquets, dinners, and meals for political meetings. Following that, Moti Mahal became the first venue for visiting dignitaries to sample this most innovative and popular Indian cuisine. The list included the Shah of Iran, US President Richard Nixon, and Jackeline Kennedy, Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada, King of Nepal, Soviet leaders Alexei Kosygin, Nikolai Bulganin, Zulfikar Bhutto, and others. Maulana Azad, India's first education minister, once said, 'Visiting Delhi without eating at Moti Mahal is like visiting Agra without seeing the Taj Mahal.'
The pearls were not intended to adorn the beautiful women of Delhi, but to win the Dilliwala's culinary heart and introduce the world to a new delight - tandoori chicken. It was to conjure up culinary magic. He roasted the chicken in the mud baked oven, which was dug into the ground and lit with coal and wood. When Kundan added a vegetarian speciality - Dal Makhani (black lentil cooked slowly overnight and mixed with the magical potion of top puree garnished with fresh cream - even the most discerning gourmet would visit Moti Mahal with bated breath.
In his column in Brunch (Hindustan Times Publication), noted journalist and food critic Gautam wrote, "Our story now veers (as does the story of the tandoori chicken) to Delhi's Daryaganj where Kundan Lal Gujral opened Moti Mahal and made Tandoori cooking famous.
On a visit to India in 1984, James Traub, author of Indian, the Challenge of Change, described the tandoori chicken with typical gourmet flourish, " It emerges in the best of all possible restaurants, light pink in the centre, crisp on the outside, slightly smoky throughout, and with a fine mist of sauce still clinging to the surface. It's more pungent with cumin and coriander than hot with chilli. After the first bite of murgh malai or tender chicken, one should give in to the sudden desire to cry; after all, India is an emotional country."
'My restaurant is my life,' Kundan Lal Gujral said near the end of his legendary career. Gujral's inventive genius is responsible for tandoori cuisine's popularity in Indian cuisine.
It was a lesson well learned for the family left behind, particularly his grandson Ashim Gujral, who had the opportunity to train under his legendary GrandFather, having graduated in Business studies from Delhi University and then Hotel management from Pusa, and who now manages the global chain of Moti Mahal Hotels and Restaurants. He was also influenced by his father, Nand Lal Gujral, who expanded the restaurant chain beyond Daryaganj to South Delhi and Uttar Pradesh in the 1970s.
Today, Moti Mahal is the largest Indian restaurant chain in the world.
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