Of all the splendid flavors found in the cuisines of India, tandoori dishes are among our very favorites. Yet the word “tandoori” itself does not refer to any specific flavor or ingredient — it’s derived from “tandoor,” an Indian name for the kiln-like earth oven found in many Asian, Middle Eastern and North African countries.
“Perhaps the oven was originally developed for firing pottery and then someone realized that it could be used for baking,” speculate authors Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid in their James Beard Award-winning cookbook Flatbreads and Flavors: A Baker’s Atlas. “Or maybe the discovery went in the other direction.”
Flatbreads are cooked on the inside walls of the heated tandoor, while a slow, hot fire at the bottom is used to grill meat, fowl, fish and vegetables.
For those of us who don’t have one of these upright ovens in our own kitchens, tandoori dishes are usually something we only order at Indian restaurants. But here’s a well-kept secret: You can achieve similar mouthwatering results at home with a gas or charcoal grill — or even on your stovetop.
In this week’s recipe, Ronit marinates boneless chicken for several hours in a mixture including her Tandoori Spice Rub, made with chilis, paprika, cumin, coriander, cardamom, celery, bay leaves, garlic, fenugreek, methi, black pepper and salt.
The marinade also calls for just a bit of Black Salt, a special type of Indian mineral salt that is actually pinkish-grey rather than black and has a very distinctive sulfurous mineral taste, like hard boiled egg yolks.
Ginger, turmeric, paprika, black pepper and fresh cilantro also contribute to the complex flavor.
One thing you won’t find in this grilled dish is the bright red (but flavorless) coloring traditionally seen in restaurant tandoori dishes. That’s because tandoori coloring is made from artificial ingredients — which we don’t use, carry or recommend.
Get the recipe: Ronit’s All-Natural Tandoori Chicken