Tandoori chicken, an all-time favourite dish has made a place for itself on the menus of most Indian restaurants. It’s easy to understand why: A magical marinade, which is a combination of spices ground together to form the tandoori masala. The base of this tandoori marinade is yoghurt that is seasoned with ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander powder, salt and vinegar; once mixed together, the tandoori chicken marinade coats the tender and juicy chicken with an explosion of flavours.
The incredible fan following that tandoori chicken has managed over the years wouldn’t have been possible if not for Mokha Singh Lamba and Kundan Lal Gujral, who popularised tandoori chicken at their restaurant in Peshawar, Pakistan. Later when Gujral was forced to leave the country and head to Delhi, he founded Moti Mahal, a restaurant which went on to popularise the clay-oven tandoor style of cooking. From here on, the classic tandoori chicken recipe won hearts across the globe, making it an international sensation.
The right chicken
Chef Amitesh Singh Virdi from Punjab Grill, Mumbai, says that while picking the chicken, the flesh should be bright and pink. He adds, “The meat should be tender and should spring back upon pressing it.” It is best to avoid buying a chicken which is bruised or has blood clots. Virdi further says, “The chicken should be chilled and stored in a refrigerator unless it is being freshly butchered in front of the customer.” In that case, the raw chicken should be stored in an airtight container or wrapped well to help retain its moisture.
Clean the chicken
Thoroughly wash the chicken to get rid of any blood or dirt. If the chicken was frozen make sure that it has thawed completely before cooking. Virdi says, “The whole chicken contains a giblet package that needs to be removed from its cavity. Next, remove all sinews from the meat and set aside.” Before getting started, make sure you check the cavity of the chicken at the tail end and remove the kidneys using your thumbs or fingers.
While traditionally, as the name suggests, tandoori chicken is prepared in a tandoor, the good news is that you don’t need a tandoor to make tandoori chicken! You can nail this classic dish by grilling it or making it an oven, whatever is more convenient. However, Chef Virdi does warn that the chicken prepared this way won’t really taste the same, as it will lack the charring from the tandoor.
To make restaurant-style tandoori chicken at home, Chef Virdi’s recipe calls for one kilogram of chicken. While you can use a whole chicken, it will be easier to get it chopped from the butcher into medium-size pieces. Next, you will be needing 30 gms ginger and garlic paste, 50 gms chilli powder, 10 gms turmeric, 100 gms hung curd, 40 ml mustard oil, 5 gms fenugreek leaves, 50 gms boiled Kashmiri chilli paste. For seasoning, you will require some fresh limes, salt and chaat masala.
Getting your tandoori chicken going
- 1. Marinate your washed chicken with 30 gms ginger and garlic paste, salt, 20 gms chilli powder and 5 gms turmeric, and leave the marinated tandoori chicken to rest for about 4 hours in the refrigerator.
- 2. Next, prepare a marinade by mixing together the curd, mustard oil, fenugreek leaves, remaining chilli and turmeric powder along with the boiled Kashmiri chilli paste.
- 3. Rub the marinade thoroughly inside your chicken so as to cover all the areas and leave to rest for another 2-3 hours.
- 4. Pre-heat the oven at 180°C for at least 10 minutes before placing the chicken inside. Roast the chicken pieces by basting every 5 minutes with some butter or oil, for around 25 minutes. Once done, take out from the oven and season with some chaat masala, and juice of half a lime. Serve hot.
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