Skewered Trip – The Times of India

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monish gujralApr 21, 2013, 12.55PM IST Mumbai Mirror[ Anjana Vaswani ]

The Moti Mahal empire successor leads foodies on a kebab trail from Stockholm to Lebanon in his new book.
Serendipity is what Monish Gujral, scion of the Moti Mahal Mughlai and tandoori food empire, puts his new book down to. When someone like him finds his passion for kebabs fired up at a Parisian food fest, there’s simply no other explanation.

It was at Le Cordon Bleu 2010 that Gujral was quashing misconceptions about Indian food, when a Bosnian student mentioned that his local cuisine includes a kebab variant called evap i , which is traditionally a blend of pork, beef and ground mutton. “That’s when it struck me that while most people would expect a kebab trail to lead to the Middle East, it’s the unexpected locales I must explore,” says Gujral about the genesis of The Kebab Trail.

Nigella chicken kebabs, another recipe he discovered while in Paris, incidentally does not owe its design to British food writer Lawson, but rather draws from Middle Eastern cuisine in which Nigella seeds or kalaunji is a favoured spice.

Though the book includes over 100 recipes plucked from Lebanon to Bosnia, Gujral admits, “It still isn’t a complete list.” After two years of research and travel, Gujral admits the final selection was tough. And so, while the Hawaiian kebab was left out due to odd ingredients, Indian and Pakistani recipes marched in because “whatever the kebab’s exact origins may be, it gained finesse here, thanks to nawabi chefs and royal cooks who perfected recipes and guarded them, reserving them exclusively for khaas guests.”

On the receiving end of such select hospitality himself as guest of Swedish chef-restaurateur K C Walberg in 2011, Gujral experimented with recipes for elk and reindeer kebabs in Skansen, Stockholm. “Since elk and reindeer steaks were popular there, I tried kebab recipes for both meats. I marinated elk in a garlicyoghurt marinade but since reindeer meat is soft and grills quickly, I tried a simple mint and cumin marinade. Both turned out well, but the reindeer kebab was exceptional — it was supremely tender,” Gujral recalls.

That wasn’t the best part, though. It’s the kebab expedition he undertook with a local restaurateur friend in the Ottoman Empire-style fishmarket engulfed in hookah smoke that left him gaping. A three-foot long freshwater fish was covered with a mound of rock salt and baked for three hours. “It was the tastiest, most tender fish kebab I’d ever tasted.”

Though that recipe doesn’t feature in the book, another Turkish kebab recipe does, and Gujral swears by the taste of these Testi kababs. “It’s a very unique recipe,” he shares, “You marinate the meat, add a lot of butter and then seal the pot with dough before popping it into an oven, so it actually turns into a drum. Crack it open and you get exceptionally aromatic and tender kebabs.”
But for all his travels, ask Gujral about his favourite recipe and he rubber-bands to the homeland. He recommends you try his grandmother’s Chapli kababs, which, he adds with a laugh, “have nothing to do with rubber slippers”. The name for this Peshawari mutton-kebab comes from the Pashto word ‘chaprikh’ which means ‘flat’.
Monish Gujral’s father Kundan Lal Gujral launched the first Moti Mahal in 1920 in Peshawar. His second outlet appeared in Daryaganj in 1947 following the Partition, gradually growing into an institution that served the likes of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the Kennedys and ex USSR Premier Nikita Khursev.

[button color="green" link="" target=""] Click for TESTI KEBAB Recipe [/button]

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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