INDIA TODAY ARTICLE
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
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