Tandoori chicken gets is name from the clay oven it is traditionally cooked in, the Tandoor. The chicken is marinated in yogurt and an incredibly complex mix of spices, and then roasted in the extremely hot tandoor oven. The results are one of the world’s great culinary experiences.
Indian chefs spend hours carefully preparing their spices for this dish. Most make their own version of a “Garam Masala,” which translates to “hot spice.” There are literally thousands of variations, but the most common ingredients are; cumin, coriander, green cardamom seed and/or black cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, mace, dried hot chili peppers, sesame, mustard seeds, bay leaves, and turmeric.
To do this properly, the chefs buy whole seeds and pods of the various spices, carefully toast and/or roast them, and then grind them right before they're used. Some even grind them by hand using a mortar and pestle. Of course, we busy American cooks don’t have time for all that (or so we claim), but luckily we can buy pre-mixed Tandoori spice. Look for the words “Tandoori Spice” and/or “Garam Masala,” or as my package was labeled, “Tandoori Masala.”
These spice mixes are available at the major supermarkets (or specialty food stores, if you’re lucky enough to live near a large city), but can really vary in quality. Please make sure you check the label carefully, and that it contains most, if not all, of the spices listed above. Some of the cheaper, lower-quality versions are nothing more than hot pepper and turmeric.
Also, don’t feel bad if you don’t have a Tandoor clay oven sitting in the back yard. The good old Weber charcoal grill will work just fine, as you’ll see in today’s video recipe clip. By the way, this can be done using whole, cut-up chicken on the bone, but for speed and lower-fat content, I chose to use boneless, skinless thighs. Enjoy!
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 tbl plain yogurt
1 1/2 tbl tandoori spice mix
1/2 lime, juiced
extra salt and hot pepper to taste