British National curry week press release Archives

By  |  0 Comments

This year National Curry Week 21-27 October 2007 celebrates the introduction of the tandoor into restaurants and the consequent creation of Butter Chicken, the forerunner to Chicken Tikka Masala 60 years ago.
Lala Kundan Lal Gujral created Moti Mahal restaurant near The Red Fort that grew to a 400 seat restaurant from small beginnings and bcome a legend in its own lifetime. Opened in 1947 he was also said to have invented Butter Chicken which became Chicken Tikka Masala when it was taken to greater heights in Britain. He first set up in Peshawar in 1920 and trailed to Delhi in 1947 following the partition.

Kundan Lal Buffet at Moti Mahal with CTM
Kundan Lal Gujral, a larger-than-life figure whom people still remember for his immaculate Pathani suits, handlebar moustache, love for good whisky and the favours he dispensed because of his proximity to Indira Gandhi, would personally serve his guests. His wife would begin each day grinding the masalas, a closely guarded secret, that went into the signature dishes.
Moti Mahal was the first to bake Chicken in a big clay oven – a sight common across villages for baking bread. It is said a gratifying meal is the ideal mixture of all three senses – sight, aroma and taste. He worked with a local man to produce the first restaurant version of the village tandoor and invented a tandoori spice mix for tandoori chicken -ground coriander seeds, black pepper and mild red pepper. Called Murg Makhani in Hindi, Butter Chicken originated in the Moti Mahal restaurant in Old Delhi. Famed for its Tandoori Chicken, the cooks there used to recycle the leftover chicken juices in the marinade trays by adding butter and tomato. This sauce was then tossed around with the tandoor-cooked chicken pieces and presto – Butter Chicken was ready! The leftover dish appealed to Delhites and was quickly lapped up by the rest of the world.
So impressed was India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru by Kundal Lal’s dishes that Moti Mahal became a permanent fixture in all his state banquets. In fact, when the Shah of Iran came on a state visit to India, the Indian Education Minister Maulana Azad told him that coming to Delhi without eating at Moti Mahal was like going to Agra and not seeing the Taj Mahal. So impressed was Nikita Krushchev with Moti Mahal food that he invited Kundan Lal to have a shop at an international trade fair in Moscow and after Nehru, his daughter and then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi continued the relationship with Moti Mahal. So fascinated was she by the food that at the wedding of her younger son Sanjay Gandhi, Moti Mahal specialties dominated the dinner.
Grandson Monish Gujral entered the business in 1983 and has since built the business up to have 33 outlets promoting their specialist “tandoori trail” cuisine including a branch in London. His grandfather’s signature dishes remain, some additions were made in the 1970s, some in the 1990s, but people blindly come and order the Butter Chicken, Maa Ki Dal and Roti. “It is difficult to tell them to try anything different,” he said. Last year Upper crust magazine voted Monish Gujral`s Motimahal Delux Tandoori Trail Restaurant in Mumbai Nariaman point in the top ten restautrants of Mumbai.
Dynamic as he is, Monish has written a book about his grandfather and has also opened an office in New York -USA for trading restaurant wares and for the expansion of his franchises in the west.
During National Curry Week 2007 curry-lovers in UK are asked to celebrate the introduction of the tandoor and “Britain’s favourite dish” in a restaurant or at home by remembering the needs of others and sending £1 per diner to Oxfam. Details for payment can be found on

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>