Kundan Lal Gujral: The man who gave Tandoori chicken to the world

10:41 AM Jul 26, 2021 | Team Udayavani |

Tandoori Chicken, originally a Punjabi preparation is a soft, succulent dry dish made by slow roasting spiced and marinated chicken in a clay oven called tandoor. But the popularity of tandoori chicken can be credited to a refugee called Kundanlal Gujral who had worked at a restaurant in Peshawar.


Gujral had learned how to make innovative use of the tandoor, a clay oven that has traditionally been used in Punjab to bake bread.  He figured out that he could put three whole chickens onto a single skewer and cook them simultaneously in the tandoor which was a cost-effective way of cooking.

But in 1947, partition drove Kundan away from Peshawar, forcing him to flee to Delhi in India. Gujral decided to rekindle his passion for Tandoori chicken and opened a restaurant called Moti Mahal in Delhi and built a large tandoor.

While Gujral is credited with inventing the tandoori chicken dish, it is debated that the origin dates back even further to the Mughal era. Historians are said to have found the first evidence of a meat preparation that looked like Tandoori Chicken in the ruins of Harappa.

Although, Kundan Lal Gujral’s recipe was the first to perfect this way of cooking with chicken and changed the way of cooking chicken in India.


Tandoori chicken quickly became popular throughout South Asia and the Middle East as well as in Western countries.

The Punjabi refugees decided to follow Gujral’s example and set up tandoori restaurants and as the refugees spread out all over India, they took their tandoors with them.

By the late 1950s tandoori chicken had arrived in Calcutta and Bombay. By the 1960s, it was a menu staple all over India.

By the 1970s, virtually every Indian restaurant in the world had its own tandoor. And today, tandoori chicken is the world’s most famous Indian dish.

Fun facts

  • Former Soviet and Pakistan Prime Ministers Nikita Khrushchev and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto are said to be great fans of the dish as well. Khrushchev even carried it to Moscow.
  • In the US Tandoori Chicken became popular in the 1960s, probably when Jacqueline Kennedy was reported to have eaten “Chicken Tandoori” on a flight from Rome to Bombay in 1962 and later Los Angeles Times published its recipe in 1963.



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