Tandoori Chicken Recipe and History

Tandoori chicken recipe

Tandoori Chicken is one of the most famous dishes in Indian Cuisine. It is a chicken dish that originated in Punjab region of India. The chicken is marinated in yogurt, and seasoned with tandoori masala. What makes Tandoori Chicken so special is in the way it is cooked. It is traditionally cooked at high temperatures in an earthen oven called a Tandoor.

History of Tandoori Chicken

Tandoor cooked chicken actually dates back to the Mughal peroid. This delicacy was a main course of the enormous Indian feasts of that day. Other stories of its origins have arisen, such as the one below:

A man named Kundan Lal Gujral ran a restaurant called Moti Mahal in Peshawar before the partition of India. Trying out new recipes to keep his patrons interested, Gujral tried cooking chicken in tandoors (clay ovens) used by locals until then to cook naans (bread). The tandoors are bell-shaped ovens, set into the earth and fired with wood or charcoal reaching temperatures of about 900 degrees. Gujral was able to cook the tender chickens in these ovens making them succulent inside and crispy outside.

After the partition in 1947, Punjab was partitioned with the Eastern portion joining India and the Western, Pakistan. Peshawar became part of Pakistan and Gujral found himself one among many refugees fleeing the rioting and upheaval by moving to India. He moved his restaurant to Delhi in a place called Daryagunj.

The Tandoori chicken at Moti Mahal so impressed the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru that he made it a regular at official banquets. Visiting dignitaries that enjoyed Tandoori Chicken included American Presidents Richard Nixon and John Kennedy, Soviet leaders Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev, the King of Nepal, and the Shah of Iran. The fame of Tandoori Chicken led to many derivatives like Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken, commonly found in menus in Indian restaurants all over the world.

Tandoori Chicken Recipe

This is an authentic recipe for Tandoori chicken. It is best served with long grain Onion, lemon wedges,Basmati rice and cucumber salad and eaten with Tandoori Rotis or Naan (Indian Bread).This recipe is best if left to marinate at least 8 hours or overnight.

* 1 (3-pound) chicken, cut into serving pieces, skinned and trimmed of all visible fat
* 1/2 cup plain yogurt
* 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or malt vinegar
* 1 tablespoon minced garlic
* 1 tablespoon peeled and grated or crushed ginger root
* 1 tablespoon ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
* 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
* Vegetable oil, for brushing
* Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish
* Slices of cucumber, red (Spanish) onion, tomato and lemon, for garnish

PREPARATION: Prick the flesh of the chicken all over with a fork. Then, using a sharp knife, cut slashes in the flesh to allow the marinade to penetrate. Place the chicken in a nonreactive large, shallow dish.

In a nonreactive bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice or vinegar, garlic, ginger, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, cardamom, cloves, black pepper and salt.

Stir until well-mixed, then pour the mixture over the chicken and rub it into the flesh, turning the chicken several times. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. (Do not marinate for longer than 2 days.) Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking.

The chicken may be grilled or roasted. If using a charcoal grill, prepare a fire for direct-heat cooking. Position the grill rack 5 inches from the fire. Allow the coals to burn until white ash covers them and the heat is moderate.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, pressing lightly to extract excess marinade, and brush with oil. Place the chicken pieces on a well-oiled grill rack and; grill, covered, with the vents open, turning 3 or 4 times, 45 minutes or until the juices run clear when a piece is pierced near the bone with a knife.

If roasting, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, brush with oil, and cook, turning once, 25 to 30 minutes until the juices run clear when a piece is pierced near the bone with a knife.

Serve with sprigs of cilantro and slices of cucumber, red onion, tomato, and lemon.

Yield: 4 servings
Per serving (without cucumber, red onion, tomato or lemon, for garnish): 303 calories, 33 percent calories from fat, 45 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, .54 gram total fiber, 11 grams total fat, 124 milligrams cholesterol, 707 milligrams sodium.