Tikka, in the Indian national language Hindi, literally means bits or pieces and is used to describe chunks of meat or chicken marinated in certain aromatic spices and then grilled in a tandoor, usually after threading onto skewers. As one may imagine, there can be several different varieties of tikka. Tikka is normally a dry item employed as a starter or appetizer at the start of a meal or sometimes as a snack. As a matter of fact, the chicken tikka is one of the most widely accepted Indian dishes. Chicken tikka so prepared may also be made into a rich gravy dish by the name of Chicken Tikka Masala. Other than chicken other meats may be used to make tikkas – lamb tikka, mutton tikka, fish tikka as well as several vegetarian tikkas – paneer tikka, mushroom tikka and so on. Some other unique special tikkas are the Soya mint tikka, bharwa aloo tikka, moong dal tikka etc.
The tikka first originated in Asia and it basically means "a small bit or a piece" in Persian, Urdu and Punjabi languages. As per most tikka recipes, a tikka is prepared by using boneless pieces of chicken or mutton. These small pieces were first marinated in yogurt and spices and then baked in a clay oven known as a tandoor. Some tikka recipes used pieces with bone and these were barbequed on hot coal to bring out a unique taste and flavor. Over the years, this dish has become popular in all corners of the world. There are a number of variations and some people prefer it dry whereas others prefer it with gravy. The gravy is usually made of tomatoes and a variety of spices. The best part is that a tikka has been able to adapt as per the individual preferences of people in different countries and regions of the world.
Tikkas gained prominence in the early Mughal era as they were considered a food fit for the kings, aristocrats and emperors in those times. It formed a perfect opening to a regal spread and was enjoyed immensely for its delicate taste and juicy flavour. Irrespective of the method of preparation and the type of meat used, tikkas need to be tender and succulent. A tikka is considered authentic if it simply melts in the mouth and the delicate flavours and aromas capture the senses.
Difference between Tikka and Kebab
While a kebab is made with coarsely minced meat, the tikka consists of larger chunks of meat, marinated and grilled till done. After marination, a kebab may be roasted in a tandoor or pan-fried on a stove top. Tikkas normally use fillet of meat (sometimes muscle meat) which is marinated and baked in traditional tandoor or roasted over hot charcoals till well done.
Ingredients and Preparation
For an authentic chicken tikka –
Main ingredients required are fresh beaten yoghurt, ginger, garlic paste, garam masala, chat masala, peppercorns, or red chillies for spice, lemon juice, and skinless chicken breast cut into large chunks and onion rings.
Chopped coriander, ingredients other than yoghurt are made into a smooth paste which is used to marinate the chicken along with yoghurt. The chicken is marinated overnight with concurrent refrigeration. The chicken is subsequently threaded on to skewers and kept ready. The grill or tandoor is prepared by pre-heating to high temperature or heating the coals to red hot temperatures as the case may be. Skewers are placed on the grill racks and chicken is roasted to perfection. Uniform browning and tenderness could be used as a measure of doneness.
Other meats may also be grilled in a similar manner to make tikkas.
Tikkas are most often enjoyed topped with raw onion rings, lime juice squeezed on top, and a dash of chaat masala for more flavour.
The same chicken tikkas served in rich masala gravy has today become one of the most popular dishes in the UK known as Chicken Tikka Masala.
A vegetarian favourite is the Paneer Tikka which may be prepared in a similar manner by marinating cottage cheese and certain vegetables cut into large chunks. Bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions would combine well with cottage cheese. Marinating for a few hours with yoghurt, red chilli powder, cumin powder, spice mixes, ginger garlic paste and salt would be adequate. The paneer and vegetables are threaded onto skewers and roasted or grilled in the tandoor for just long enough to leave the veggies crunchy and the paneer soft.
A single serving of home cooked version of the chicken tikka supplies-
• 260 calories of which calories from fat are 144
• Total fat content is 16.0 g
• Total carbohydrate content is 2.0 g and dietary fibre is 1.2 g
• Total protein content is 27.0 g.
This dish is so popular that it is available in easy-to-make packed variants, that can be picked off the shelf and these have the following nutritive value-
Sainsbury's Chicken Tikka made with Breast Pieces.
A serving size of 100g of commercial chicken tikka supplies-
• Calories 148.0kcal; Calories in a (150g) serving is 222kcal
• Fat content is 3.1g
• Carbohydrate content is 2.1g and dietary fibre is 1.1 g
• Protein content is 27.8g
A serving size of 1 piece of paneer tikka ~ 30 g provides-
• A total of ~75.7 calories, calories from fat being 62 calories.
• Total fat content of 6.9 g, saturated fat content of 4.3 g. Cholesterol content 19.2 mg
• Sodium content of 62.5 mg
• Total carbohydrate content of 3.2 g with sugar 0.6 g and dietary fibre content of 1.4 g with other carbohydrate components making up the remainder.
• Total protein content of 1.8 g.
Tikkas are, as such quite a nutritious snack, being high in protein; and being grilled or tandoor baked rather than deep fried. Depending upon the kind of primary ingredient – meat, chicken or fish the dish would provide different nutritional advantages- e.g. iron from meat, calcium, phosphorus from chicken, healthy omega-3 fats from fish, Vitamin D and B-vitamins from mushrooms, calcium from paneer.
• A mint and coriander chutney and
• A fresh green salad served alongside the tikkas
• A tall glass of fresh lime juice to provide Vitamin C that would facilitate iron absorption.
Where to Buy?
A popular, economical and yet much appreciated place to buy some great tikkas is the Jai Jawan Stall at Linking Road, Bandra, Mumbai, India.
Barbeque Nation Outlets also offer some delicious tikkas.