Friday, July 25, 2014

Tandoori Chicken/Chicken Tikka

Back in the year 1967, a Hindi cinema by name 'Ram Aur Shyam' was released. Dilip Kumar was in double role. I was a movie buff, and I too went and watched it. A particular scene attracted my attention. It was a scene in which Dilip Kumar greedily eats tandoori chicken and then pops entire boiled eggs into his mouth, all the while making faces at Pran! That was the first time in my life, I saw Tandoori Chicken. I was a pure vegetarian then, and I was wondering how the chicken was so red in colour! I told my friends, "They must've cooked the chicken along with its blood"!

Time has taught me many things. I started eating chicken in 1973 at Hotel Woodside in Mangalore. When my brother first came from England to get married in April 1977, he hosted a pre-wedding party at Menaka Bar, Woodside. There he ordered Tandoori Chicken and Butter Chicken apart from other dishes. I had the taste of Tandoori Chicken for the first time. Later, I differentiated between Chicken Tikka that was boneless and Tandoori chicken that was with bones. In Bangalore I've tasted chicken tikka and tandoori at many restaurants. However, somewhere along the line, eating out in Mangalore took a different turn and fast food joints like 'Chicken Tikka' opened. They called Tandoori Chicken as Chicken Tikka. Now I don't know whether that's exactly what it is called by the Punjabis who are pioneers in making this baked dish but I too am more or less comfortable with the term Chicken Tikka for Tandoori Chicken. Let's leave that aside and move on!

Tandoori chicken is a prime Indian non-veg dish on the menu at global level. An Eighties British comedy TV serial called 'Tandoori Nights' features two rival restaurants in London. Coincidentally, Zohra Sehgal, the evergreen actor who passed away recently, and the veteran actor Saeed Jaffrey have acted in it.  Punjabi dhabas make the best Tandoori Chicken obviously. I have tasted fantastic dhaba food in Delhi, Chandigarh and Amritsar. Chicken Tikka in a small dhaba in Amritsar was not spicy at all, but was very tasty and was perfectly baked. Another good tandoori chicken I tasted was at Taj Restaurant near KR Market(City Market) Bangalore. Chicken is well marinated in spiced yoghurt and then baked in a tandoor or clay oven on charcoal fire to perfection.
Home baked tandoori Chicken is more like grilled chicken but if you take care to follow the steps I have given here below, you will achieve almost the same taste and texture as you get in restaurants. Purity of spices and hygiene that you maintain are the plus point. Otherwise, price difference between home made and restaurant bought tandoori Chicken is very narrow.

Anyway, I made this wonderful Punjabi starter cum accompaniment at home, marinating chicken slightly more than necessary. Marination for 3-4 hours makes the end product awesome, delicious, soft and spongy and what not! Just try this method.

Ingredients:
Fleshy Broiler Chicken without skin - 1.5 KG cut into 4-6 big portions.
Lemon - 1
Salt - To taste
Ginger Garlic Paste - 2 Teaspoons
Turmeric powder - 1/4 Teaspoon
Red Chilli Powder - 1/2 Teaspoon
Kashmiri Chilli Powder - 1 Teaspoon
Garam masala Powder - 1 Teaspoon
Thick Curd - 100 Ml
Oil/Ghee - For basting

Method:
Clean wash and pat dry the chicken pieces.
Make gashes on the chicken pieces, apply lemon juice and some salt, keep aside for 30 mins.
Combine the other ingredients except ghee/oil and apply the paste thoroughly on all the chicken pieces.
Cover with cellophane cling film/aluminum foil and marinate in the fridge for 3-4 hours.
Pre heat Oven at 180C in grill setting for 10 minutes.
Line the baking tray with aluminum foil, apply ghee/oil over the foil and arrange all the marinated chicken pieces evenly.
Keep for baking and set the timer to 70 minutes.
At the end of 30 Minutes, you will see a pool of juices from the chicken collected in the baking tray surrounding the chicken pieces.
Carefully collect the juices by pulling the tray out and draining it.
Baste the half baked chicken surface with ghee/oil and bake for another 10 mins.
Flip the pieces and baste the other side.
Bake for 15 mins.
Flip the pieces once again and allow them to brown.
At the end of 60-70 mins, all the pieces must have baked perfectly.
Remove from the oven and arrange on a platter.
Serve with shredded onion carrot and cabbage salad, lemon wedges, preferably with curd mint chutney dip.
You can also sprinkle chaat masala on the baked chicken pieces.

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