If you’ve ever been to an even half-way legit Indian food joint, you will have probably seen a large open oven in the back that’s red hot. Daredevil cooks will be sticking their arms into it — pushing in breads and meats and pulling out beautifully charred food.
It’s called a tandoor and I want one. It’s kind of like a pizza oven except roundish and the hole is in the top of it. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that you need to make them yourself which is possibly a project I’d be willing to undertake if I owned the place I was living.
I have a feeling though that my landlord wouldn’t be thrilled if I constructed a large clay pit in the backyard just so I could make na’an.
But have no fear. We can make really good tandoori chicken in the oven with a broiler, or on the grill.
1) Mince (or chop in a food processor) the garlic, ginger, and peppers until they are a rough paste.
2) Combine paste with yogurt, lemon, oil, and spices.
3) Marinate chicken in yogurt mixture for at least an hour but preferably 4-6 hours.
4) When ready to cook, wipe off excess marinade and lay chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet.
5) You can either grill the chicken on high heat until charred and then move to low/indirect heat or broil for 6-10 minutes on high until charred, then finish cooking in a 350 degree oven.
6) Serve chicken with steamed veggies and/or rice.
Prepping the Marinade
This dish is based around a yogurt marinade which a lot of Indian food uses. The yogurt keeps the meat really tender.
To start, you need a lot of garlic, ginger, and chilis.
Mince these all up very finely. It actually works best if you have a small food processor that you can whiz them up in. You want to make sure that it’s almost a paste in consistency.
This is about perfect.
Then you need some other very flavorful spices. If you can, try to use whole spices and grind them yourself. That’ll result in the best flavor, but using ground is just fine also.
Mix the yogurt, with the pepper-garlic-ginger paste along with all the other spices. Add in the lemon and oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Then add your chicken to this mixture and make sure the chicken is really covered in the marinade.
Let this marinate for at least an hour, but preferably a few hours. I let mine sit in the fridge for about 5 hours and it was good.
Cooking the chicken
You have some solid options for cooking the chicken. First, you could grill it. I just got a grill actually which I’m super-excited about. I would go the grilling route if you can.
Second, if you don’t have a grill, you can broil it. Turn your broiler on hi and then line a baking sheet with foil. Wipe off the marinade and set the chicken, skin side up, on the baking sheet. If you removed your chicken skin, then just throw it on there.
You should still have a pretty good coating of marinade on the chicken.
Cook this under the broiler until the chicken is nicely charred, probably 6-10 minutes depending on how awesome your broiler is.
Then turn off the broiler and finish the chicken in a 350 degree oven until the chicken is done, probably another 15 minutes.
You’ll end up with some beautifully charred chicken.
I served the chicken with some steamed snap peas and brown rice that I cooked with a few Teaspoons of turmeric. The rice wasn’t quite as flavorful as I had hoped, but I just drowned it in chili garlic sauce anyway.
The chicken was very crispy and still really moist on the inside.
I think this would be a great dish for someone who wants an intro to Indian flavors. The ingredients are pretty simple so you may just have to pick up a few extra spices.
Even though I can make this in the broiler or on the grill, I still want my own tandoor…