Hitting a tandoori century

2020 marks 100 years of the Moti Mahal chain of restaurants but its legacy alone will not help sustain business in a pandemic-hit world. Earning loyalty could.

Published: 29th November 2020 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th November 2020 01:14 AM   |  A+A-

Butter Chicken

Express News Service

A hundred years have passed since Kundan Lal Gujral, a Punjabi-Pathan from Peshawar, introduced the iconic tandoori chicken and butter chicken to the world at the fabled Moti Mahal. But the coronavirus doesn’t care for legacy. Monish Gujral, the custodian of the Moti Mahal brand and the grandson of its doyen, is ruefully aware of this fact. Yet, every set-back offers possibilities.

Gujral decided that centenary celebrations can wait. It was time to recalibrate the model instead. He decided to focus on shielding the business in unpredictable times. When in June, Moti Mahal experienced a surge in home deliveries, Gujral decided to strengthen its off-premises infrastructure. Until now, it was exclusively for in-house dining. When push came to shove, the restauranteur thought a new approach had to be adopted. Accordingly delivery systems were powered up.

Moti Mahal 

More staff were hired. Safety and hygiene training was undertaken. Oximeters  and thermal scanners were bought in. Gujral realised that Covid-19 was going to be around for a long time. “It’s as though the dining space has shrunk and everybody is desperately jostling for survival.

It becomes all the more necessary for a brand like us to preserve the vision of our founder. At the end of the day, it’s about keeping the love and enthusiasm for tandoori chicken and butter chicken alive,” he admits.

Gujral explains how running a restaurant was a family affair a century ago. Moti Mahal’s menu was straightforward. The first edition in Peshawar in Gora Bazar, now in Pakistan, offered only a handful of dishes such as kebabs, dal, kormas, roti, naan and paranthas. For dessert, there was kulfi and fruit cream. “With choice being limited on the menu, the food quality was kept intact. Now restaurants are in a race to include the maximum number of dishes on their menus.

The essence of enjoying a preparation for what it is has been lost. Your plate is a confusing mish-mash of contradictions,” says Gujral. Moti Mahal’s menu may have incorporated new additions catering to the current tastes, but the idea of cooking for the love of food remains intact, in keeping with Kundan Lal Gujral’s original vision. Staying afloat is the iconic restaurant’s goal right now.

Earning loyalty is the key to survival in the food business. It doesn’t matter how popular you were for decades. Today, every day counts. “In the coming times, only brand loyalty will help the plummeting restaurant business tide over the pandemic damage. Especially in a place like Delhi where butter chicken and tandoori chicken run in every Punjabi’s blood. These two will decide the fate of any Indian specialty restaurant,” feels Gujral.

Why did the butter chicken cross the road? Out of loyalty to Kundan Lal. 

Egg halwa  

4  Milk 1/2 ltr 
4  Khoya 150 
4  Sugar 250 gm 
4  Eggs 6 
4  Cardamom powder 3/4 tsp 
4  Ghee 1/2 cup    
4  Saffron 1/2 tsp

=In a  pan, heat milk on medium flame without boiling
=Add khoya and keep stirring till mixture thickens
=Remove from heat and bring it to room temperature
=Add beaten eggs, sugar, cardamom, saffron to the cooled milk mixture
=Blend the above in a blender
=Now add ghee in a thick-bottomed pan
=Add the blended egg mixture
=Sauté on low heat till ghee settles on the side
=Eat warm


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