Talking Tandoori

A Tandoor is a round clay oven (pictured, right) that is used from North Western India – through Pakistan and Afghanistan – up into Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey and as far west as the Balkans.

The tandoor oven dates back to the ancient civilizations you learned about in grade school, the Indus Valley [modern-day Pakistan], the “fertile crescent.”

Traditionally powered by a wood or charcoal fire inside the oven, a tandoor can reach blistering high temperatures (up to 900F!).

In addition to being a kind of oven, the word tandoor, or tandoori, also describes a dish cooked in a tandoor. In our part of the world, “tandoori” describes a cuisine of grilled or roasted foods, marinated beforehand in a spicy mixture that often includes yogurt.

For example, Tandoori Chicken (pictured, right) is marinated in yogurt seasoned with garam masala, garlic, ginger, cumin, cayenne pepper, and other spices which impart the dish with a bright orange-red color. On the other hand, Chef Amy’s recipe for Grilled Pork Tandoor, skips the yogurt, and instead uses a spicy citrus-and-oil-based marinade to flavor cubed and skewered pork.

Traditionally baked at high heat in a tandoor, tandoori cuisine can also be prepared in a gas or electric oven, or on an outdoor grill.

The precise ingredient list for tandoori cuisine varies from region to region, but our Tandoori Spice Blend includes Coriander, Fenugreek, Cinnamon, Cumin, Cayenne Pepper, Black Pepper, Onion Powder, Ginger, Clove, Garlic, Bay Leaves, Nutmeg, and Celery.   You can rub the spice blend rubbed directly on meat (or veg or tofu), or blend with yogurt or oil for a marinade.

No 900-degree clay oven at your house? No worries. You can reproduce the vibrant color and robust flavor of traditional tandoori cooking: Marinate your dish for at least four hours, remove from Tandoori marinade, and bake (uncovered) for 45 minutes at 325F — or grill over direct high heat. Use leftover marinade for basting.

Photo credits: Amritsar Visit: Tandoor by bandarji on Flickr
Tandoori Chicken by Lori_NY on Flickr

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