Tandoori Chicken is said to have originated with a man named Kundan Lal Gujral, who ran a restaurant called Moti Mahal in Northern India, before the partition of British India. While trying out new recipes to keep his patrons interested, Gujral tried cooking chicken in tandoors (clay ovens) used by locals until then to cook naans (bread). The tandoors are bell-shaped ovens, set into the earth and fired with wood or charcoal reaching temperatures of about 900 degrees. Gujral was able to cook the tender chickens in these ovens making them succulent inside and crispy outside.
After the partition in 1947 Gujral found himself one among many Hindu refugees fleeing the rioting in the North, soon to become Pakistan, by moving to India. He moved his restaurant to Delhi- which became the Capital of India.
The fame of Tandoori Chicken led to many derivatives like Chicken Tikka (small cubes of chicken marinated, and then roasted on a skewer) and eventually the Indian dish popularized in Britain - Chicken Tikka Masala, commonly found in menus in Indian restaurants all over the world
When I was in India, I never felt the need to make Tandoori Chicken at home, since it was so easily available all over the country. Now, here in the US, I found myself yearning for the taste of Authentic Tandoori Chicken. So began my search - and here is what I came up with after many trials and different recipes - to be closest in taste. Of course the wonderful taste of the clay oven with its glowing coals, can not be reproduced by the grill, but it comes darn near when using a good charcoal grill. In a pinch, I have used the gas grill for parties with great results too!
1 (3-pound) chicken, cut into serving pieces, skinned and trimmed of all visible fat
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or malt vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon peeled and grated or crushed ginger root
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Vegetable or Olive oil, for brushing
Fresh chopped cilantro to garnish
Slices of red onion, tomato and lemon, for garnish
Prick the flesh of the chicken all over with a fork. Then, using a sharp knife, cut slashes in the flesh to allow the marinade to penetrate. Place the chicken in a large, plastic or glass shallow dish - or zip-lock bag.
In a glass bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice or vinegar, garlic, ginger, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, cardamom, cloves, black pepper and salt. Stir until well-mixed, then pour the mixture over the chicken and rub it into the flesh, turning the chicken several times. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking.
The chicken may be grilled on charcoal or gas or roasted in an oven. If using a charcoal grill, prepare a fire for direct-heat cooking. Position the grill rack 5 inches from the fire. Allow the coals to burn until white ash covers them and the heat is moderate.
Remove the chicken from the marinade, pressing lightly to extract excess marinade, and brush with oil. Place the chicken pieces on a well-oiled grill rack and; grill, covered, with the vents open, turning 3 or 4 times, 45 minutes or until the juices run clear when a piece is pierced near the bone with a knife.
If roasting, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, brush with oil, and cook, turning once, 25 to 30 minutes until the juices run clear when a piece is pierced near the bone with a knife.
Serve with slices of grilled red onion, green pepper, tomato,chopped cilantro, lemon juice and cilantro chutney.
You can easily grill Tandoori chicken on a gas grill. You will find that gas cooks them more evenly and quicker. Left over tandoori chicken makes a wonderful Chicken Salad. Simply cut into cubes/strips and add low fat mayo, celery, salt, pepper and parsley flakes.(Or add your own choice of salad mix).