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Tandoori Chicken

shantihhh's picture

I have been making Tandoori style chicken since I was a student in London and first tasted this amazing dish. This is a new recipe I tried that is different in that it has a two step marinade. It is very flavourful indeed.

Even people who say "oh I don't like Indian food" will love this for sure. Make plenty as if you are lucky enough to have left overs you can use the boned out meat for Chicken Makhani/Butter Chicken which is a favourite of Americans and Brits alike, but not so common in India.

My favourite cookbook on Tandoor is

This book is amazing. It was compiled by the daughter of Ranjit Rai after his death in 1993. I have his Curry, Curry, Curry book which was a gift to me by his nephew and wife my dear friend Christine McNeilly Rai for my birthday shortly after it's publication. I have celebrated 5 birthdays in India all in Jodhpur at the Umaid Bhawan Palace. But that surely is another blog.

Tandoori Murg (Chicken Tandoori-Style)

Tandoori chicken, a most famous Indian dish, is also one of the healthiest and tastiest. The word tandoori refers to any food cooked in a tandoor, which is a giant, unglazed clay oven. The chicken in this recipe is marinated twice, first with the lemon juice, then with the yogurt mixture. You can approximate a tandoor by using a charcoal grill or gas broiler, but the food won’t achieve the exact flavor. I get closer using an off-side smoker for making tandoori foods even though it is a much lower slow temperature.

The taste is hard to duplicate since the tandoor reaches such high temperatures, up to 800 degrees F, but even if the chicken is not strictly traditional, it’s still flavorful. Those who are watching their fat intake, will like cooking chicken in the tandoori-style, since the skin is removed from the chicken before it is cooked. And, by using a low fat or no-fat yogurt in the marinade, the fat is reduced even further. This chicken is traditionally served with cooling mint chutney. Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.8 chicken bone in thighs, skin removed

3 teaspoons Kashmiri Mirch available at all Indian markets)

1 tablespoon ground smoked paprika (I use Spanish Smoked sweet & hot)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup lemon juice

3 tablespoons melted butter

  • Garnish: Lemon slices and slices of sweet onions

  • Mint Raita, see recipe below


  • 1 cup plain yogurt

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water

  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger*

  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic*

  • 3 teaspoons ground red chile, such as New Mexican or piquin

  • 2 teaspoons Garam Masala, commercial, or see recipe below

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Line a strainer with a dampened cheesecloth, add the yogurt and place over a bowl. Put the bowl and strainer in the refrigerator and let the yogurt drain for 4 hours to thicken.

Make slashes in the chicken to the bone. Combine the cayenne/chile pepper, paprika, and black pepper and rub the mixture into slashes, add the lemon juice and coat the chicken. Marinate the chicken for 30 minutes at room temperature, then drain.

Put the drained yogurt and all the rest of the ingredients for the marinade in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Pour the marinade over the chicken and, using your fingers, rub it into the meat. Cover the chicken and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning at least once.

Start a charcoal or hardwood fire in your barbecue, or better yet smoker. Place the grill 2 inches over the coals and grill the chicken for 10 minutes, turning once. Use the marinade to baste the chicken as it cooks. Raise the grill to 5 inches and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, turning once. (If using a smoker, smoke the chicken off set from the coals for about 1 1/2 hours-this results in a wonderful flavour)

Remove the chicken and brush with the melted butter. Return the chicken to the grill and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, turning once, until the chicken is done and the juices run clear.

Serve the chicken garnished with lemon slices and with the mint chutney/raita on the side.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Now there are as many ways to make your on Garam Masala as there are cooks.

Garam Masala

In Hindi the word garam means hot or heating and masala, a mixture of spices. The Hindu teachings about health refers to effects of spices in the body.

Garam Masala is a mixture of those which create heat in the body--cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and cardamom. Toasting the spices before grinding releases their essential oils.

Masalas are prized for their aromatic qualities and are usually formulated for a specific use. This masala, however, is a basic blend that is used alone or with other seasonings. If used in cooking, they are best used towards the end of cooking period to get the full effect of their aroma. Garam Masala can also be sprinkled over a finished dish as a garnish.

It is important to use fresh spices!

  • 3 3-inch pieces cinnamon sticks

  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns

  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves

  • 1 tablespoon cardamom pods

  • 1 tablespoons coriander seeds

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Place a heavy skillet over high heat. Add the spices and lightly roast until the seeds begin to "pop" and they become fragrant. Be careful that they do not burn.

Allow the spices to cool, and grind until fine in a spice mill. I use a coffee mill that is reserved for spices. Actually it might be interesting to grind coffee beans in it for an exciting brew.

Yield: 1/4 cup

Heat Scale: Mild

Raita with tomatoes

Mint Raita

Raitas are India’s version of a salsa or salad that are served as cooling counterpoints to hot and spicy Indian foods. They are yogurt (curd in India is the proper term) based and contain vegetables that are either raw or cooked, and low fat or whole yogurt. If using whole fat yogurt thin with a little water to produce a smooth texture.

1/2 cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon minced onion

1/2 teaspoon garam masala, commercial or see recipe above

1/2 teaspoon minced serrano or cayenne type chile (green is preferred)

Pinch of sugar

Salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, cover and let sit at room temperature for an hour to blend the flavors.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Yield: 1/2 cup

Heat Scale: Mild

Use your imagination and try other grated veggies in raita such as carrots or cucumbers my favourite.

Chicken Makhani with perhaps too much red food colouring and chiles or not enough cream as it is looking too red.

My favourite in the Tandoor is fish-Pomfret is amazing this way, but any smaller fish works well.

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shantihhh's picture
Hummm, I corrected my typo to read Tandoori but it didn't take-sorry! Never mind, however you spell it, it is a wonderful dish. I am going to post my favourite Tandoori Chicken recipe under recipes latter today.
vikas.kumar's picture
Tandoori chicken is my favourite dish. Others that come close are Chicken Tikka, Chicken Seekh kabab...basically all dry stuff. The pictures are lovely. The ones of Umaid Bhawan remind me of the best two and a half months of my life. I was working as 'Dialogue Coach' on a Hollywood film called 'One Night With The King'. The entire film was shot in Jodhpur and Umaid Bhawan was our office! I very fondly remember the time we spent there...the rooms and galleries where we shot, the huge backyard, the swimming pool in the basement, the restaurant where I was invited on quite a few occasions by John Rhys Davies and Omar Sharif (the legend) for drinks. We've had long chats over 'Bloody Mary' and other cocktails. This was also where I met Peter O' Toole (I was surprised by his keenness on discussing theatre and acting with me)! Jodhpur gave me moments that I'll cherish all my life. Thanks for the wonderful snaps.
khau.khan's picture
Dude, i surely missed out not coming down to join you in jodhpur. the very idea of shooting a film over there is exciting enough! perhaps next time, when you are making your own film! Bon Appetite!
shantihhh's picture
Unfortunately so many Indian restaurants serve Tandooi chicken on their buffets and allow it to sit and dry out. If it is kept in a rice cooker on just heat it will stay moist and wonderful, of course the best way to enjoy Tandoori Chicken is sizzling hot from the Tandoor when the meat is succulent and so wonderful. 'One Night With The King' is one of the best movies to come out of Bollywood for sure. LOVED it!!!! I am duly impressed that you were involved in the production of this fabulous movie. I highly recommend this film to all! Tiffany Dupont, a Georgia gal, unknown to us is such a beautiful woman, and of course Peter O'Toole, and Omar Shariff were great as usual. That must have been an amazing expierence working with them and living at the Palace for two months. Every time I had to go to Jodphur I stayed at the Palace, what an amazing place indeed. They always made me feel so very special from the moment I exited my car and even before I placed a foot on that first step. Umaid Bhawan is truly a magically place. It was finished in 1943/1944 as the last of the Maharaja Palaces to be built. It is in the Indo-Art-Deco style. The pool downstairs is truly amazing! I'll never forget being startled awake the first moning I ever stayed at the Palace by blood curtling screams. I immediately ran to my balcony area outside and listened again, yes a woman who was probably being.......oh dear, thus my first encounter with "screaming" peacocks in the morning. I have had the honour to be invited by His Highness Maharaja Gaj Singh II to several reception in the Palce. My husband is also an avid vintage car collector. The Bugatti he cruises around in is amazing, but the real treasure is his Stainless Steel 1931 or 1932 Rolls Royce Hunting Car. Breakfast on the Pillars was always so wonderful, but especially spectacular at sunset. I'll never forget one stay when my daughter was with me and Jason Scott Lee, star of Jungle Book and his girlfriend were at the table next to us. It was my birthday and the staff had presented me with the flower garlands. Anyway we were snapping photos and he offered to snap a few, and we had some taken with him. Such fun. They were staying at the Palace while filming. On one flight in to Jodphur from Delhi I was on Jackson Airlines (yes there really was or is a Jackson Ailines) with the son of the Maharaja, The Yuvraj of Jodhpur, Shivraj Singh. We were the only passengers plus my friend, Anu on this small aircraft. His father picked him up at the then quite small airport (military) in the mid 1990's. That was my first time to meet him. The Yuvraj of Jodhpur, Shivraj Singh was home from Harvard?. He BTW has revived the game of polo big time in Jodphur. Yes, it is a magical place. Drinks in the Polo Bar and dining in the lovely restaurant are memories to treasure as you say. I o hop to return there on our next trip to India. I was fortunate on one stay to be upgraded to the Maharani Suite. It is unbelievable and about 5000 sq ft plus the long outdoor terrace area. We had so many meetings in my suite! LOL The entire Palace is truly a work of art from the staircase with the leopard in the wall to the amazing central dome. Ah such memories!
khau.khan's picture
well not every one can make tandoori food. unless the meat is well roasted, the flavor just doesnt come. I have roasted the best tandoori chicken of my life in the most unusual place on earth and the most likely way. I was up skiing in Auli, the best ski resort in india in 1998. we have been there up in the mountains for 3-4 days and were more than hungry for some meat after having been given rice, vegetables and potatoes. One guy managed to trek 4,000 feet in the winter to the nearest village to fetch a chicken. Later than night, we actually grilled it raw with no spices or anything in the coal powered room heater! We let it in there for 30-40 minutes, i guess and it cooked slowly in the heat of the coal fire. I cant describe how tasty the chicken turned out to be! Bon Appetite!
MasalaMonsoon's picture
I have tried, and well it os not so good, even if myhusband smiled.
Ginny69's picture
Looks like a yummy chix recipe and colorful pics too!
lakttm's picture
Hi, I saw your receipes and blog through indian cooking yahoo groups. I couldn't find any vegeterian receipes. If you already posted forget about my words..if possible send me a url... I am south Indian but love north indian receipes who is a pure vegeterian.. good luck, GL
shantihhh's picture
If you search on vegetarian there are many recipes here. Some of mine are here and I will be posting more veg recipes as I love veggies and they are a healthy choice. Glad you joined iFoodTV. You will love all the different recipes and videos. Many here are Vegetarians so just search from the homepage on the upper right side ENJOY! Shanti/Mary-Anne
Ed Hardy Clothing's picture
Tandoori Chicken