On a global trail – The Telegraph, Calcutta, India

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Saturday , June 19 , 2010


Monish Gujral of the iconic Moti Mahal restaurant is poised to take his brand’s culinary delights to the world.

What does it take to sell over a lakh portions of butter chicken a year? If you have a culinary secret like Monish Gujral of the iconic Moti Mahal restaurant does, it’s not such a tall order. The recipe in question has been handed down from Gujral’s grandfather, Kundan Lal, who started this restaurant chain in Delhi’s Daryaganj after the 1947 Partition. Gujral, 43, now heads Moti Mahal.He has a sterling reputation to maintain. The Moti Mahal journey started in the 1920s in Peshawar, in the then undivided India. Lal created a tandoori chicken by marinating chicken with yogurt and spices and grilling it in a hot clay oven and subsequently replicated the dish when he settled down in India.Though Gujral joined the Institute of Hotel Management Catering and Nutrition, Pusa, in Delhi, his real training took place in the Moti Mahal kitchens. He recently authored The Moti Mahal Cookbook — on the Butter Chicken Trail that won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award 2010 and is also poised to open outlets in the Middle East and New York soon. “We are on a global trail,” he says.

He shares the secrets of two of Moti Mahal’s signature dishes.


350gm paneer Salt to taste 1tsp vinegar ½ white pepper powder 2tsp mint chutney ½tsp red chilli powder ½tsp cumin powder ½tsp garam masala 100ml hung curd ¼tsp asafoetida powder 1tsp lemon juice Oil, to grease

Wash the paneer and cut into 1½-in x 1½-in cubes. Pat dry and set aside.
For the mint sauce: In a blender add mint leaves, lemon, water, cumin powder, salt, red chilli powder and garam masala. Blend to a fine paste.
First marinade: Apply salt, white pepper and vinegar to the paneer cubes and keep aside for 30 minutes.
For the second marinade: In a bowl, whisk the hung curd and add red chilli powder, the mint paste and asafoetida. Mix well. Remove the excess moisture from the paneer tikkas and apply the second marinade. Keep aside for an hour. Then, skewer the marinated paneer cubes and roast in a preheated tandoor for eight minutes. Remove immediately and hang for two minutes to drain out excess moisture. Grease with oil and turn the skewer upside down and roast again for about three to four minutes till cooked. Alternatively, it can be grilled in an oven at 300°C. Serve with mint chutney.


600-700gm chicken, washed and pat dried
For the first marinade 1½tbs lemon juice 1tsp red chilli powder 1tsp salt to taste
For the second marinade ½ cup yoghurt 1tbs garlic paste 1tbs ginger paste ½tsp rock salt 1tsp garam masala ½ dry fenugreek powder 2 onions cut into rings 1 lemon wedge

Make two deep incisions each on the chicken breast and drum sticks. Set aside.
First marinade: Mix all ingredients in a bowl, rub over the chicken and keep aside for an hour.
Second marinade: Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, rub on the chicken and keep aside for three hours. Pre-heat the oven at 180°C. Place the chicken on a grill rack. Grill for eight to 10 minutes. Brush with oil, turn upside down and grill for three to four minutes till golden brown. Remove and keep aside.

For the gravy to go with the tandoori chicken:

1 tandoori chicken 400gm ripe tomatoes 2tbs oil 1 onion, chopped 1tbs red chilli powder 1tbs ginger garlic paste Salt to taste 1tbs garam masala 1tsp jeera powder 50gm butter 100gm fresh cream 2 green chillies, deseeded 1tbs coriander, chopped 1tbs fresh cream for garnish

Heat oil in a pan. Add onions and sauté till brownish. Add the tomatoes and salt. Let it simmer. Stir occasionally till the oil separates from the sides. Now, strain the mixture, pour in a pan and heat. Add all the spices and the chicken and stir for a three to four minutes. Stir in cream and remove quickly. Garnish with green chillies, coriander and a drip of cream.

As told to Hoihnu Hauzel

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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