Cooking With Coal? Try These 5 Smoked Dishes At Home
Image Credit: Freepik

The tandoor, a traditional cylindrical clay oven has been a staple in Indian cooking for centuries. Originally fuelled by charcoal, it was used for baking naan and roti, as well as for cooking meats. In the Mughal period, the use of coal in cooking evolved, especially in creating the rich and intricate dishes of Mughal cuisine

Tandoori cuisine involves cooking in a coal-fired tandoor, which is a highly popular technique. The coal's intense heat and smoky essence contribute to the unique flavour and texture of tandoori dishes. The traditional dhungar method, which entails smoking food with coal, is another classic approach. By heating a piece of coal until red-hot and then placing it in a vessel with ghee or oil, a flavourful smoke is produced that adds depth to the flavours in the dish. 

Cooking with charcoal provides a unique blend of smoky, charred, earthy, and rich umami flavours to dishes, making it a popular choice for grilling and barbecue enthusiasts. When executed properly, charcoal cooking can help seal the juices in the food, creating succulent and tender meals with a deliciously smoky crust.

Whether you opt for direct grilling for a seared, charred taste or indirect grilling for a slower, more subtle smoky flavour, the possibilities are endless.  In the art of smoking, coal serves as the primary heat source, while the addition of wood chips or chunks enhances the smoky flavour, creating a more complex taste experience. Here are some dishes that can be made even more delicious with the smoking technique: 

Smoked Tandoori Chicken 

The smoked tandoori chicken is a hit with the crowd and you'll be surprised at how simple it is to prepare. Combine yoghurt, lemon juice, ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, garam masala, cumin powder, and salt. Let the chicken marinate in this mixture for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight. Heat up your grill or oven to 200°C. Cook the chicken until it's fully done and has a nice char on the outside. 

Get a piece of charcoal and heat it until it turns red-hot. Next, take a small bowl or a piece of foil and place it in the middle of the cooked chicken. Carefully add the hot charcoal to the bowl and drizzle some ghee or oil over it. Quickly cover the chicken to capture the smoky flavour. Allow it to smoke for about 5–10 minutes. Once done, remove the charcoal and serve the delicious tandoori chicken while it's still hot. Don't forget to garnish with lemon wedges and onion rings. 

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Smoked Paneer Tikka 

Smoking is often associated with meat, but it can work wonders for vegetarian dishes too. For the perfect flavour in Paneer Tikka, mix yoghurt, ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, garam masala, cumin powder, lemon juice, and salt. Let the paneer cubes marinate in this mixture for at least an hour. Then, thread the paneer cubes onto skewers and grill them at 200°C until they achieve a golden brown colour. 

Heat up a chunk of charcoal until it turns a fiery red. Position a tiny bowl or a piece of foil right in the middle of the cooked paneer. Carefully place the scorching charcoal into the bowl, drizzle it with some ghee or oil and quickly cover it up. Let it smoke away for about 5–10 minutes. The paneer tikka can be served with a side of refreshing mint chutney.

Smoked Dal Tadka 

Give your daily Dal a tasty upgrade by incorporating this smoking method. Boil toor dal (yellow dal) with turmeric powder and salt until tender. Lightly mash it. Heat ghee or oil in a pan. Sizzle cumin seeds in it. Sauté onions until they turn golden. Stir in ginger-garlic paste and green chillies, and cook for a minute. Cook the tomatoes until soft. Combine the cooked dal with the mixture in the pan and mix thoroughly. Let it simmer for 10 minutes. 

Make sure to heat a piece of charcoal until it's red hot. Then, put a small bowl or a piece of foil right in the middle of the dal. Add the hot charcoal to the bowl and give it a generous drizzle of ghee or oil. Cover it up and let it to smoke for about 5–10 minutes.

Dhungar Maas 

Video Credit: Rawali Rasoi

Dhungar Maas, also known as Dhungar Gosht, is a traditional Indian delicacy that has its origins in the royal kitchens of North India. Begin by marinating the meat cubes in a mixture of ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, and salt. Let the meat marinate for 30 minutes to an hour. Next, heat a piece of charcoal until it's red hot and place it in a small steel or heat-resistant bowl. In a separate pan, heat ghee and add cumin seeds until they splutter. Sauté finely chopped onions until they turn golden brown, then add ginger-garlic paste and green chillies. 

Add chopped tomatoes to the pan and cook until they soften. Mix the marinated meat cubes with the masala and cook for a few minutes. Sprinkle coriander powder and garam masala powder over the mixture. Create a well in the centre and place a small bowl of red-hot charcoal in it. Pour ghee over the charcoal and cover the pan tightly to trap the smoke. Allow the meat to smoke for 5–10 minutes. For a smokier flavour, keep it covered longer. Lastly, use tongs to carefully remove the charcoal bowl. 

Smoked Baingan Bharta

The Bharta has a charred flavour by itself. Smoking can give this already delicious dish the perfect twist. Start by charring the eggplants over an open flame until the skin turns black and the flesh becomes tender. Once done, let them cool down, peel off the skin, and mash the eggplants. In a pan, heat the oil and sauté the onions until they turn golden brown. Then, add the ginger-garlic paste. Toss in tomatoes, green chillies, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, and salt. Cook until the tomatoes become soft. 

Then add the mashed eggplants to the pan. Give it a mix and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Finally, sprinkle some garam masala. Put a small bowl or foil in the middle of the eggplant mixture, place the hot charcoal in the bowl, and drizzle with ghee or oil. Cover it and smoke for 5–10 minutes.