Tandoori Chicken is for sure one of the favourites, if not THE favorite of every Indian, who has ever tasted one. It leaves this amazing taste in your mouth, from the very 1st bite to the last, making you want more. Heck, my father (a lamb lover/addict), doesn’t eat or like chicken in any form (99.99% of all varieties), but will eat Tandoori Chicken (101% sure). Let’s just say, if you see him eating chicken it’s for sure going to be a Tandoori chicken and that’s that. There’s no other way a chicken piece is going to enter his mouth.
In Dubai, there’s this restaurant called Little Hut, that serves delicious Tandoori Chicken with puri and coriander chutney. Before marriage, my family and I, used to go there to eat at least once a month (maybe more!) to have their spicy chicken. And now after marriage, I go with my husband and son, because they are the new addicts. I love mine spicy (theeka) and I prefer the leg piece over the breast because there’s more masala to it.
Rewind << 6 months back: this is even before I started the blog, my love for Tandoori Chicken made me want to experiment whipping a spicy one at home.. I didn’t own a Tandoor (and still don’t), therefore needed a recipe where I could use a regular gas oven. Googling online, led me to Sanjeev Kapoor’s recipe (click here), which sounded simple and called for baking. But still, it didn’t give me the boost or the motivation that I was looking for. Not that there was a problem with the recipe, but you know… Tandoori Chicken?!? At home? Who was I kidding?
Later that day at a friend’s place, I was still debating and the scales were weighing more on the “don’t make-don’t bother” side. My reasons : it’s not going to be easy baking/broiling a “Tandoori” chicken in an oven! Also what if the chicken doesn’t get cooked in time for dinner? Or what if I set the house on fire? I voiced my thoughts loud enough I guess, that my friend after a huge amount of digging and pulling out books after books from shelves and cupboard, finally handed me (after some dusting) a book named ‘Indian Cookery’ by Madhur Jaffrey. This book had a recipe for Tandoori chicken, and my friend wanted me to try it out and let her know so that she could make it too.
Anyway, after a little (lots, rather!) inspiration from my friend, I got the book home and headed straight (with blinders on) to the meat store to get the chicken. Any stop over, any distraction, any further thinking would make me start doubting and debating again. And I didn’t want that.
The recipe that I came up with, was inspired by both Sanjeev Kapoor and Madhur Jaffrey. I tweaked, adapted and changed to suit my taste buds, which calls for more spicy and less tangy. And the result??? In my son’s words… Fantastic! Ever since, I have only used my recipe for making Tandoori chicken because I know this is tried, tested and totally triumphant recipe.
Fast Forward >> to last month One day when I made tandoori chicken (and still couldn’t believe that I made it at home and that it tastes so good), I told my darling husband R that I should post this recipe online and even took. The conversation after my suggestion:
R – “babes…yours is really fantastic and delicious. But I don’t think it’s really a big deal that you need to post it. Everyone seems to be content using the packaged Tandoori Masala that you get at stores. It has instructions too on the back of the box. (how he knows this? well because he’s the official pappadom-picker when we go grocery shopping…and the pappadoms are kept right next to the packaged masalas. So he just observes what others are picking up from the ready-to-use masalas. Observations!).
I argued saying – “but mine’s different”.
R – “Different yeah, but maybe the packet masala ones taste better and are simpler to make than yours. So don’t bother. If the packaged ones weren’t good, why would people buy them?? Everyone ‘s happy with those. But then again… your wish.”
I let my case to rest because he had a point and never bothered posting the recipe. Case closed. (luckily, I had taken snaps!)
Fast forward >> to last weekend: I bought the packaged Tandoori Masala paste from the store just to experiment. Not to prove anything, ok fine maybe a little bit. Actually no, I bought it thinking if the packaged one is easier, I can give up my recipe. After all, you all know how lazy I am and what I wouldn’t do to reduce the steps in any procedure. And so bought it and did everything as it said. I tasted the masala and arghh….. a big NO! (no offense to those using the powder and liking it). But it was too tart, tangy, sour, Khatta (call it whatever!) for me, because it had too much amchur (dry mango powder) in it. I don’t like that. Tandoori Chicken is meant to be spicy. Not sour! Argh….it’s better to ask what I did not do to reduce the sourness. Added Kashmiri chilli powder, the normal spicy chilli powder, garam masala….and finally somehow got it to come to a pretty acceptable level of tartness.
Marinated the chicken, baked and broiled it and served it for dinner. It still had the tartness but luckily not much. After all the adjustments I made to the store-bought masala, I can say it turned out pretty OK. My husband and I like my version better 🙂 and anyways, if I had to add masalas to the store-bought package, then why can’t I just make my own?!?!? So after the not-so-successful test of the ready-made tandoori mix, I decided it’s about time for my tandoori Chicken to make its entry into the blog (photos are of the chicken using my marinade mix). Let me tell you this is not at all difficult. Prepare the marinade, marinate, bake/broil. That’s how simple it gets. The ready-made masala is not any simpler because in that too, you need to add ginger-garlic paste, turmeric, yoghurt and all that. Why spend money on the package then?? Just make your own! It’s tasty,simple and you choose what goes into the marinade.!
- 1 kilo chicken drumsticks (or even leg pieces with thighs or breasts)
- 2-3 tablespoons canola or olive oil or melted butter, for basting
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
For the Tandoori Paste/Marinade:
- 3/4 cup thick yogurt (the recipe says to hang the curd in a muslin cloth for about 15-20 minutes to get thick yoghurt. But the fact that here in Dubai, the yoghurt you get is pretty thick as is and the fact that I didn’t have a muslin cloth,….made me just use what I had. I kept it out for about 10 minutes, and let some water collect on top, threw that and used it. :-))
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon butter or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste (fresh please)
- 1 teaspoon ginger paste (again fresh)
- 2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Garam masala powder
2 teaspoons dry fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)
Salt to taste
Wash the chicken pieces thoroughly and using a sharp knife, make bone-deep incisions (one slit on each side of the leg), so that the marinade penetrates will into the chicken. Let the water drain by placing them on a bowl (slightly tilted).
Later, rub the chicken in a mix of 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt and refrigerate for half an hour.
Now, take the thick yoghurt, in a bowl. Beat it well to remove all the lumps. Add all the ingredients of the marinade to the yogurt and mix well. Nicely rub this marinade over the chicken pieces, put it into a zip-lock bag or a bowl with a lid and marinate for about 8 hours (preferably over night because longer it marinates, the better it tastes. ). If there’s a quite a bit masala paste left, I just freeze it for another time where I use it to marinate chicken breasts or thighs and grill it.
Next day, Preheat the oven to 250°C. Meanwhile:
Step 1: Searing in a Frying Pan – Drizzle a little oil onto a frying pan and turn the gas flame to high. Once the oil is hot, put the chicken pieces into the oil and sear on high flame on each side, for a minute or two. This is done just so as to get the nice brown tandoor color on the outside and to seal the juice of the chicken inside. This process is called Searing. Note: the chicken will not be cooked at this stage. (if you’ve done this step, then don’t do step 3). Read Note on another method to get the tandoor look, which is done once the chicken is cooked(step 2) and is an alternative to searing in a frying pan method.
Step 2 : Cooking Chicken in the Oven – Once the outsides are brown (that’s if you’ve followed the step 1 then), transfer the chicken pieces onto a baking pan that has been lined with aluminium foil(double layer is good). Once the oven has reached the set temp. carefully place the pan on the center rack of the oven. After 15 minutes take the tray out, turn the chicken to the other side and also baste it with oil or butter. Put the tray back in, set the timer for another 15 minutes and let it cook on this side now. The fat from the chicken will start running out and that prevents the chicken from sticking onto the foil. Also, sometimes, the oil and the marinade around the chicken, might start burning, that’s ok too. If you feel, the chicken is starting to stick to the foil, pour in a little olive oil into the baking pan. The chicken would need a total of about 30-45 minutes of baking. It depends on the size of the pieces and the temperature too. But keep checking every 5-10 minutes, if the chicken needs more basting or if it’s sticking to the foil. Once your timer goes beep, the second time… insert a tooth pick or a fork right into the meat to check if it’s done. Your tandoori chicken is ready to eat. Switch off the flame, cover the chicken or the tray with aluminium foil and let it rest in the oven till it’s time for dinner to be served.
Restaurant style Tandoori Chicken is ready! 🙂
Serve with mint and coriander chutney, or with sliced onions and lemon wedges.
Tips / Notes:
- The broiler method to get the tandoor look. This method is done as an alternative to step 1 method-where the chicken is seared on the frying pan. Also do note, this broiler method is done after the chicken has been cooked following Step 2 instructions. (i.e. step 2 mentioned above becomes your step 1 and this method becomes your 2nd step.) Switch off the baking option heat and switch on the broiler mode (the flame comes from top of the oven) and set it at a temperature of 200°C. Mine has no option for temperature setting, so I just put it on max. Using mittens, take the baking pan with the chicken pieces from the center rack and put it on the top-most rack. (you do know that you’re not supposed to close your oven door shut when using the broiler mode. Most of the gas ovens come with a door stopper to be used when operating the broiler mode).Broil the chicken, under close observation for 5 minutes on each side or till the chicken gets a nice tandoor-cooked look, with some burnt marks.
- If you’re having guests over and want to make it more presentable, wrap the bone with aluminum foil to give a gourmet look.
- You could use orange food coloring to give it that vibrant color, but then I really don’t think you need it. I haven’t used any and it’s a still got that good tandoori color.
- You can use Chicken breast, thighs, or even cook a whole chicken. But in that case, don’t forget to adjust the marinade (esp. for the whole chicken) and also the cooking time will vary.
- Left over masala/marinade can be frozen and used to marinate fish, paneer or potatoes. Like I mentioned, if there’s quite a bit of marinade left, I freeze it and use it to make another batch of Tandoori chicken drumsticks (try to use it within a week). Else, I use it to marinate vegetables or chicken breasts. If you’re using chicken breasts, you could bake it as is or else…cut them into cubes, marinate them and then skew them into skewers and bake them. You get Chicken Tikka pieces 🙂
- You can even grill or Barbeque the chicken after it’s marinated, instead of baking/broiling.
- The searing/broiler mode of getting the Tandoor cooked chicken look, is just an option. Though, I personally feel it does make a difference to the taste, since it makes the chicken more crunchy on the outside, while juicy on the insides.
Don’t go by the length of the post. My yapping is the reason for such a long post and not the procedure to make the chicken. Do try it. It’s simple!
P.S. The chicken breasts are made from the left-over marinade which I froze and used couple of days later.