Kundan Lal Gujral: Father of butter chicken

After moving from Peshawar to Delhi during Partition, Kundan Lal Gujral first set up Moti Mahal in Daryaganj. The restaurant soon revolutionised North Indian food with its novel and delectable recipes. Chef Manish Mehrotra talks about Gujral’s contributions to Indian food cuisine

Manish MehrotraAugust 21, 2021ISSUE DATE: August 30, 2021UPDATED: August 21, 2021 15:34 IST

Chef Kundan Lal Gujral (1902–1997)

Jawaharlal Nehru and Raj Kapoor, would have, of course, eaten at Moti Mahal in the 1960s, but being from Patna, I first ate there only in the mid-’90s. I was a student of hotel management then, and I had enough knowledge about food to realise that I was eating in a place that had given birth to not one but three iconic dishes—butter chicken, tandoori chicken and dal makhani. That was definitely a high.

One cannot undermine what others have done for Indian food, but the contribution of Kundan Lal Gujral is immense. It was he who created these dishes that are famous in India as well as internationally. His recipes are just like mother recipes that have encouraged younger chefs to come up with countless more derivatives of their own. The tandoori lobster that I had once seen on the menu of a Michelin 3-star restaurant was also derived from his tandoori chicken recipe. You will find thousands of such derivatives all over the world.

Julia Child once said there can never be enough butter in a dish. Kundan Lalji’s butter chicken, I feel, went further by perfecting the balance of flavours. The dish, after all, satisfies the soul.

– Manish Mehrotra is an award-winning chef. He started Indian Accent in 2009

Monish Gujral

First chef from India to be invited to Le cordon Bleu to demonstrate in Paris. Monish is credited with the trailblazing turn-around of Moti Mahal, from being a small but iconic presence in Delhi, to becoming a multi-national corporation that is well on its way to defining how the world eats Indian food. A traditionalist, Monish has remained true to the signature dishes that made Moti Mahal a legend, while reinventing the dining experience into one that is exciting and avant garde to suit modern sensibilities.

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