In North India, we love our Tandoori Chicken, and I have grown up on the best Tandoori chicken recipes out there.
For a very long time, Tandoori Chicken was the only way I wanted my chicken. I even preferred it to the popular butter chicken. Though later came a time where the latter triumphed over the former, but now I have an equal liking for both.
Tandoori chicken- the preferred snacking choice when I have beer in my hand; butter chicken with roti or naan when sitting for a meal.
When I was younger, my dad was posted at Hindan, a place that is an hour’s drive from India’s capital city, Delhi. A few kilometers from Air Force Station Hindan was a very famous eatery called Soni Da Dhabba. Every time we had a craving for Tandoori Chicken, my dad would pick his Bajaj scooter, sometimes with us on board and sometimes not, to pick up a to-go order of Tandoori Chicken, Dal Makhani and rotis. It was almost a ritual for us, and nobody, absolutely nobody made food the way Soni da dhabba made. We were faithful customers and continued going there till my dad got posted out five years later.
We still talk about that dhaba’s food to this day. Anybody who came to stay with us also fondly remembers about Soni’s dal and his tandoori chicken. Its been years since we had a taste of these items from the restaurant, and I do not even know if its still running or if it still stands up to its name, but Soni’s food will always stay as a very happy gastronomical memory for every one in my family.
In my repertoire I now have a great recipe for dal makhani and can safely say that if not exactly the same, the recipe is as close as it can get to Soni dhabba’s dal. I think the memories associated makes Soni’s dal unachievable in this lifetime. But going by the reviews written by the people who have tried the recipe, its a close second. Plus, I have adapted it to make it in the slow cooker too!
And while I have also perfected the butter chicken recipe, tandoori chicken was something I had not got spot on. Well, I hardly ever tried, making mostly chicken tikka in my kitchen instead. Until now.
My mom is blessed with very talented cooks in her kitchen, and this is a recipe that I learnt from another one of her cooks. With grilling season on in the States, and Football fever all over the world, this is the perfect time for you to make this recipe. And the prep just takes five minutes. The results are lip smackingly good. Trust me.
The key to success in this recipe is the use of whole spices. Trust me they do make a difference. You could make this with substituting a bit of garam masala for the whole spices you do not have in your pantry, but if you carry the spices listed I highly recommend you to grind them fresh.
Another important thing to keep in mind is to use hung curd/yogurt. The water in the yogurt toughens the chicken so it is best removed. Just keep the required amount tied in a muslin cloth on top of a bowl for a few hours or so in the refrigerator, until the whey separates. The resulting thick yogurt is what you use to marinate. To the leftover whet, you can add freshly roasted cumin powder to the whey and some ice, making a very refreshing drink while you marinate the chicken.
Serve the tandoori chicken with the mint chutney I have on the blog (seriously you do no need any other mint chutney recipe- THIS ONE IS IT!) and some lemon and chopped onion rings, and you have a great dish to serve with drinks or otherwise.
- 600-700 gms chicken thighs and legs (with bones)
- 4-5 pieces whole cashews, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
- 2 black cardamoms, only seeds
- 4-5 cloves
- 8-10 whole black peppercorn
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 inch piece ginger
- 8-10 pieces garlic
- 1 tsp chopped green chillies
- pinch nutmeg
- 4 tbsp thick yogurt (hung curd)
- 2 tbsp chaat masala (or if you do not have chaat masala, use the juice of a lemon, but chaat masala helps to thicken the marinade)
- 1-2 tsp salt, or to taste
- pinch red food coloring (I used powdered but you can use liquid as well, or none at all)
- oil, for basting
- Clean and dry the chicken pieces. Starting with a well dried chicken is key to a tender roasted chicken.
- Grind all the ingredients listed under paste.
- Make few cuts/slits across each chicken piece. This helps the marinade to seep in the chicken, resulting in a more flavorful and tender roasted chicken. Mix in the marinade.
- Keep covered in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- When ready to eat, mix in the food coloring in the marinated chicken and mix well. Baste chicken with oil and grill in the oven or electric tandoor for 15-20 minutes, turning once.