Tandoori Chicken Mysteries: Indian Style Grilling

What does “Indian style grilling” actually mean? Do Indians and Americans cook their meat in fundamentally different ways? A “tandoor” is the name of the clay oven in question. “Tandoori oven chicken” is the name of the chicken dish. The term “masala” refers to the spice blend. The dish “tandoori chicken” is frequently referred to as India’s national cuisine.

One will need to travel across the world to India itself to discover the answers to these issues. A string of chicken parts stretched outside of street-side restaurants in a hot crimson marinade would likely greet you if you arrived in New Delhi tomorrow and strolled through its congested streets. A man, normally not too concerned with personal cleanliness, crouchs over a hot clay oven while wearing an unclean undershirt. The skewered chicken pieces are baked for a short while in this oven after being coated with butter or ghee (clarified butter). They are removed, flipped, and given another buttery coating before going back into the oven. After cooking the chicken for an additional five minutes, the cook in the filthy undershirt removes it from the pan, places it on a platter, tops it with some spice combination, squeezes some lemon juice over it, and then hands it to you, piping hot and oh-so-delicious.

It can be found throughout in the country’s northern regions. In every city, thousands of plates of this hot grilled chicken meal are served by hundreds of eateries. Another American staple, “Butter Chicken,” which consists of grilled chicken pieces in a tasty tomato and cream sauce, also uses the same chicken.

The grills used in the West are significantly dissimilar from the “tandoor.” One is that the food is not kept in plain view. Instead, this clay oven is at least three to four feet tall. At the bottom, the coal is burned. After being skewered, the food is positioned inside a large oven. The heat is distributed evenly by turning it occasionally. Meat that has been properly cooked but hasn’t quite broken free of the bone is the ultimate result. There isn’t much more than fifteen minutes of cooking time.

The most popular meal, tandoori chicken, has a marinade that is mostly comprised of yoghurt. The majority of chicken recipes typically have yoghurt (or curd, as it is known in India) as their base. It is flavoured with ginger-garlic paste, dry coriander powder, dry ‘garam masala’ (a combination of big cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and other seasonings), dry coriander powder, and red chilli powder. After spending a few hours in this marinade, the bird is roasted inside the clay oven.

In contrast to America, where grilling is a popular hobby, hardly nobody in India even owns a “tandoor.” But “tandoori chicken” is a common dish. Since India is predominantly a vegetarian nation, this has caused “non-vegetarian eateries” (the label must be clearly mentioned) to proliferate throughout the whole nation, appearing on almost every street corner. Nearly every city or village I visited while travelling through India had a few dozen such eateries, attracting both residents and weary tourists with the aroma of properly roasted chicken drifting through the air.

The finest way to enjoy “tandoori chicken” or its many derivative recipes, such as “Afghani chicken,” “Haryali chicken,” or “chicken tikka,” is with a very airy, extremely thin flatbread known as “romali roti.” The usual accompaniments for the chicken are an onion salad and a hot chutney made with green chilies, mint, and yoghurt. Overall, a culinary paradise that every grilling fan must experience at least once. This chicken is available at Indian restaurants in the US as well, but I haven’t found a single one that can compare to an actual Indian meal.


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