Friday, July 27, 2007

Excellent Recipe: Chicken Tandoori

We love Indian foods and spices. I don't think any other ethnic cuisine really comes close to the rich, fantastic flavors that Indian spices bring to a dish. We have ordered Chicken Tandoori in several Indian restaurants, but we find that though the flavors are nice, the chicken is usually dried out and uninteresting.

I've always wondered about the unnatural color that I associate with chicken tandoori in most Indian restaurants. According to several sites, they achieve this color by using food coloring! How disappointing. You can get great color by using paprika, cayenne or I've even read about using beet juice or beetroot, but I'll be it isn't as bright red as what we're used to seeing in Indian restaurants in America - I'm betting most of them use food coloring.

Tandoori Chicken (159-5932_IMGedit)

Whenever I look for recipes for ethnic cuisine online, I worry about finding a traditional or authentic recipe. I'm always wondering - Is this how they would make it in India?

I'm beginning to realize that that's probably impossible to answer. Think about someone from different country trying to find an authentic American chili - they'd probably come away very, very confused. I think the only thing everyone can agree on is that chili should have chile peppers in some form (fresh or powder) and meat. Beyond that, you'll have Texans who insist beans and tomatoes are taboo and folks from Cincinnati are known for adding cinnamon and cocoa to their chili and serving it with spaghetti. Me, I like chili with both BEANS and TOMATOES.

I'm sure it's the same with marinara in Italy. Beyond maybe tomatoes, onion and garlic, what goes into a great marinara is extremely varied. I put sugar in mine and have been told that's an "abomination". For me, using peppers, celery or carrots is a huge no-no.

So, when you're hunting for authentic recipes, I think it's safe to say that there are any number of recipes out there, but usually most recipes have at least some common theme running through most of them. The common theme for Tandoori seemed to be yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger and an assortment of spices. And there's also the tandoor oven, but that's not practical for the average home cook, so grilling or baking in the oven will have to suffice. It was hard to decide which recipe to try, but I went with a recipe from Emeril. And needless to say, no food coloring!

Authentic or not, we were very happy with this recipe - it was extremely flavorful and delicious. And nicely colored even without the food coloring. I used a little more heat in this dish than I usually do, but I think this dish really needs to have some kick and it was just spicy enough - the perfect amount of heat for us. I liked baking the thighs in the sauce - it really coated the chicken nicely and I'm sure that it helped make up for my not having marinated the chicken overnight, but I'm eager to try it on the grill sometime too. I did read a few recipes that recommend draining the yogurt in something like cheesecloth to get a thicker marinade - more like a paste - something I'd like to try next time we make this recipe. And there will definitely be a next time.


  1. Hi, I live in the UK near Leicester in Central England where there are many award-winning indian restaurants so we are spoiled for choice

    One tip for succulent chicken is cut a chicken breat into pieces and microwave cook it first for about five minutes. If you then retain the juice for the sauce (if you are using one) and then dry off the pieces before coating them in dry curry spice mix (best to use freshly ground spices if you can) and then sear the chicken for with the spice coating for a few minutes in a pan/ You can then make and add the curry sauce. This way, you retaina succulent and moist chicken breast with a seared spice coating which then is complemented by the sauce. No dried out chicken , plenty of flavour

    David Moore

  2. Thanks for the tips, David.

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