Kundan Lal Gujral was born in the first decade of the twentieth century in Chakwal, in undivided Punjab. Having lost his father at the tender age of ten, he started looking for avenues to support the family. Kundan Lal was the first in Peshawar to dig a tandoor right in the middle of the eatery. Since then, Peshawar was introduced to the culinary art of Tandoori chicken by Legendary Kundan Lal. This was a grand success. Soon Kundan was in demand for Tandoori delicacy at social gathering and wedding feasts where he would use an improvised tandoor.
However, 1947 brought the tragedy of partition, forcing among others Kundan to flee to India. Uncertainty faced him as he had neither money nor resources to start afresh in life. Kundan dropped off in Delhi to try his luck. Roaming the streets, he chanced upon an abandoned Thara in Daryaganj, and then considered a newer part of old Delhi. Some inner voice told him this was the spot, which would not only rehabilitate him but also, who knows, the Dilli wallas would see merit in his Tandoori chicken.
Thus was born the now internationally acclaimed Moti Mahal restaurant, which contributed significantly to putting India on the food map of the world. Our leaders like Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Former President Zakir Hussain among various world leaders like Bhutto, Former American President Nixon, Kennedy, Shah of Iran etc have visited Moti Mahal to sample Kundan’s innovations – its Tandoori delicacies on various occasions.
Says Uma Vasudeva , in the foreword of the book “Moti Mahal Tandoori Trail” authored by Monish Gujral , Shri Kundan Lal`s grandson, “This is the story of a man who set on a culinary adventure and changed the face of Indian cooking. This is a story of a man and a recipe which internationalized the Indian taste of succulence and spice in its food; a man who turned the plebian village tandoor for baking into a royal mode for his innovation – The Tandoori Chicken. Then came the Butter chicken; the result – a revolution in taste, change in Indian eating habits, and a place on the international gourmet map. This man was Kundan Lal Gujral. The restaurant where he housed his innovations was Moti Mahal. The two became a legendary mix. Kundan Lal not only made Tandoori cuisine popular throughout India but also strengthened the appeal of Indian food in many parts of the world. The Tandoori Chicken has become a draw card for Indian tourism. What more convincing words can be said, as were said by our very own Maulana Azad, former education Minister, who said to Shah of Iran on one of his state visits that, “coming to Delhi without eating at Moti Mahal would be like visiting Agra without seeing Taj Mahal.” It’s the tourism industry both Nationally and internationally that has recognized Kundan`s contribution awarding him many a times namely:
- IATO- (Indian Association Of Tour operators) Life time achievement Award for introducing Tandoori cuisine to the world in 1991.
- H&FS Award for his life time contribution to Food and Beverage industry in 1995.
- World Tourism Promotion Award in recognition of his innovation, the Tandoori chicken and contribution to hospitality industry.
- Trans Himalayan selection Award -Gold Medal for introducing to the world Tandoori cuisine.