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Asian-style grilling mystery: Tandoori Chicken

What exactly does “Indian style grilling” entail? Do Americans and Indians prepare meat in essentially different ways? The clay oven in issue is called a “tandoor“. The chicken dish is referred to as “Tandoori oven chicken”. The spice mixture is referred to as a “masala”. India’s national cuisine is sometimes referred to as “tandoori chicken”.

To find the solutions to these problems, one must fly across the globe to India. If you arrived in New Delhi tomorrow and wandered through its crowded streets, you would probably be greeted by a string of chicken parts spread outside of street-side restaurants in a hot scarlet marinade. Unusually unconcerned about personal hygiene, a man squats over a hot clay oven while donning a dirty undershirt. The skewered chicken pieces are coated with butter or ghee and roasted for a brief period of time in this oven (clarified butter). Before returning to the oven, they are taken out, turned over, and coated once more in butter. The dirty undershirted cook takes the chicken from the pan after another five minutes of cooking, puts it on a dish, sprinkles some seasonings on top, squeezes some lemon juice over it, and then presents it to you, piping hot and oh-so-delicious.

The northern parts of the country are home to it. Hundreds of restaurants in every city serve thousands of plates of this hot grilled chicken dinner. The same chicken is also used in “Butter Chicken,” a dish that is a standard in America and consists of grilled chicken pieces in a delicious tomato and cream sauce.

The grills used in the West are very different from “tandoor” grills. One is the lack of visibility of the food. This clay oven, though, is at least three to four feet tall. The coal is burned at the bottom. The food is skewered and then placed inside a big oven. It can be periodically turned to ensure a uniform distribution of heat. The end result is meat that has been sufficiently cooked but hasn’t completely separated from the bone. The total cooking time is only about fifteen minutes.

Tandoori chicken, the most popular dish, includes a marinade that is primarily made of yoghurt. Yogurt (or curd, as it is known in India) is often the foundation of the vast majority of chicken recipes. Red chilli powder, dry ‘garam masala’ (a blend of huge cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and other seasonings), dry ‘coriander powder,’ and dry ‘garam masala’ are used to flavour it. The bird is roasted inside the clay oven after spending a few hours in the marinade.

In India, practically nobody even possesses a “tandoor,” in contrast to America, where grilling is a common pastime. Yet, “tandoori chicken” is an everyday dish. While India is mostly a vegetarian country, “non-vegetarian eateries” (the term must be indicated clearly) have proliferated all throughout the country, popping up on nearly every street corner. The smell of expertly roasted chicken wafting through the air attracted locals and tired travellers alike to nearly every city or village I visited while travelling in India.

The best way to eat “tandoori chicken” or any of its numerous variations, including “Afghani chicken,” “Haryali chicken,” or “chicken tikka,” is with “romali roti,” a very light and thin flatbread. A fiery chutney made with green chilies, mint, and yoghurt is the traditional side dish with chicken. Overall, a culinary haven that each and every grilling enthusiast must visit at least once. There are Indian restaurants in the US that serve this chicken as well, but I haven’t found a single one that can compete with a genuine Indian dinner.


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