Tandoori Chicken, along with the equally delicious Butter Chicken, is often called the national dish of India. It is ubiquitous throughout North India. In every city, every town, there are dozens of restaurants serving succulent pieces of tender chicken grilled to perfection in clay ovens or ‘tandoors.’ This dish is to India what vodka is to Russians and hamburgers to Americans.
The unique taste of tandoori chicken can be attributed greatly to the tandoor in which it is cooked. This cylindrical clay oven, which is typically about 3-4 feet high, imparts its own flavor to the meat. The heat is provided through coal or charcoal burnt at the bottom. The meat is skewered through and placed in the oven for about 7-10 minutes. It is usually served with a spicy mint and yogurt ‘chutney’, onions, and a thin bread called ‘romali roti.’
In terms of spices, it incorporates all the spices typical to Indian cuisine: red pepper, cumin, dried coriander, turmeric, and ‘garam masala’. The best thing about tandoori chicken is its versatility. It is often used in other dishes like Butter chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, etc.
Here’s a simple tandoori chicken recipe:
1 whole chicken – 800gms
Red chilly powder – 2 teaspoons (you can find it at Indian stores)
Lemon juice – 2-3 tablespoons
Cumin powder – 1 teaspoon
Salt – to taste
Yogurt – 1.5 cups
Ginger paste – 1.5 tablespoons
Garlic paste – 2 tablespoons
Garam masala powder – 1/2 teaspoon (you can find it at Indian stores)
Olive oil – 2 tablespoons (for better results, use mustard oil)
Butter – 2 tablespoons
Chat masala – 1 teaspoon (find it at Indian specialty stores)
1. Make small cuts in the chicken. This is to allow the marinade mixture to go deep inside the meat.
2. Rub a mixture of salt, lemon juice, salt and a hint of black pepper over the chicken. Set aside for half an hour.
3. For the marinade mixture, combine the yogurt (make sure to remove all excess water) with all the ingredients mentioned above: red chilly powder, ginger and garlic paste, garam masala, cumin, and oil.
4. Rub this marinade mixture into the chicken. Cover and keep in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (the more, the better).
5. Take out the chicken and allow it to come down to room temperature. Then, skewer the chicken and place it inside a preheated tandoor. If using an oven, keep the temperature to 200°C/400°F.
6. Cook for at least 8-10 minutes. Use an oven glove to take it out of the oven and baste the chicken with butter. Place in the oven again until done.
7. Serve hot with sliced onions, thin bread (romali roti) and mint chutney. Sprinkle with a hint of chat masala if you want.
So there you have it: a simple tandoori chicken recipe. While cooking it in a normal grill or oven won’t be the same as cooking in a tandoor, this will still taste wonderful. Guaranteed.