Tandoori Chicken is attributed to Kundan Lal Gujral and his partner Kundan Lal Jaggi, who ran a restaurant in present day Pakistan in the 1920’s. They ended up having to flee as Hindu refugees to India. There, in Delhi, they set up a new restaurant and did something experimental. Up to that point, tandoors had only been used to bake naan bread. They started using it to cook this special chicken dish. Its fame was immediate. Their “tandoori murgh” so impressed the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, that he requested it on a regular basis at his official banquets. Other visiting dignitaries likewise enjoyed this wonderful dish when they visited, including Presidents Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, as well many other nation’s leaders throughout the world.
Tandoori Chicken has since become popular throughout the world and is commonly found on most any Indian restaurant menu.
- 4 skinless chicken drumsticks
- 4 skinless chicken thighs
- Vegetable oil
- 4 cloves
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 3 green cardamoms, seeds only
- 1 black cardamom, seeds only
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder or cayenne pepper (add more according to heat preference
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Heat a dry pan with a heavy bottom over medium heat (cast iron is best because it ensures even heat distribution). Add the cloves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom seeds, fenugreek, and fennel. Toss the pan regularly to rotate the spices and prevent burning and roast until they emit a very rich aroma, about 3 minutes. Immediately place the seeds in a dish to cool. Once cool, use a coffee or spice grinder to grind the spices to a powder.
- Put the yogurt in a medium bowl and add the spice powder along with the remaining marinade ingredients. Stir to thoroughly combine.
- Cut deep diagonal slices into the tops of each piece of chicken, about 3 slashes per piece, depending on the size.
- Place the chicken pieces in a shallow, nonreactive baking dish and pour the marinade over them. Make sure they are thoroughly coated on all sides, and rub the marinade inside each of the slashes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably 6-8. (This allows the marinade to fully penetrate the chicken and optimize flavor.)
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
- Place the chicken pieces on the grates of a roasting rack, or cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the chicken on it. Drizzle the vegetable oil over the chicken (this prevents burning). Roast the chicken for 30 minutes, or until the juices of the chicken run clear when a knife is penetrated in the thickest part near the bone.
- Serve immediately with rice and/or fresh naan bread.