The Art Of Tandoor And The Best Indian Dishes To Try
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The tandoori style of cooking is a traditional technique that has been perfected over centuries and is known for its unique flavour and texture. It is believed to have originated during the era of the Indus Valley Civilization in what is now modern-day India and Pakistan. Food prepared in a tandoor oven has a smokey, charcoal flavour that is distinct from dishes prepared using other methods. Thus, Indians love the tandoori style of cooking, and be it for wedding celebrations, social gatherings, buffets, or house parties, tandoori dishes are almost always a hit in the Indian food scene. Tandoori chicken, paneer, seafood, tikka, kebabs, kulcha, parathas, and naan bread are some of the popular and delicious options to try!

The word "tandoor" refers to a type of oven that is made of clay or metal and is cylindrical in shape. The charcoal or firewood is lit at the bottom of the oven to turn it into embers in the pits before slapping the flattened dough on the inner walls to cook bread or sticking in skewered veggies and meat that have been pierced through metal skewers to cook evenly under high heat. This style of cooking is popular in many parts of the world, including India, Pakistan, and the Middle East. It was originally used for baking bread, which was the staple of the region. And over time, people began to use the tandoor for cooking other types of food, such as marinated meats and vegetables.

The tandoori style of cooking continues to be an important tradition in India, Pakistan, and the Middle East regions, and it is celebrated for its unique flavour and cooking style. What sets the tandoor style of cooking apart from other methods is the high temperatures at which it can cook food evenly to produce a dish with distinct smoky flavours, crispy exteriors, and soft interior textures. The tandoor can reach temperatures of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, which allows food to cook quickly while the use of clay and the cylindrical shape of the oven adjust and distribute the heat evenly and create an environment to cook food that is perfect for the touch and taste. The flavours and textures produced in this style of cooking are unique among other cooking methods and hard to replicate as well.

Another unique feature of tandoor cooking is the use of marinades. Many foods that are cooked in the tandoor oven are marinated in a mixture of edible fats, enzymes to tenderise the food, and spices to impart flavour to the dish. Yoghurt, raw papaya, pineapple, lemons, etc. are combined with spices like cumin, red chilli peppers, black peppers, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, star anise, etc. and ghee, butter, or edible oils to make a marinade. It is rubbed through the meats or veggies and allowed to soak in them for hours, which processes the meat naturally. The marinade not only adds flavour to the food but also helps to tenderise the meat and keep it moist during cooking. In the case of dry marinated meat, a mix of spices and herbs are combined to make a suitable marinade.

The type of wood or charcoal used to heat the tandoor also adds to the unique flavour and aroma of the food produced. In addition to that, tandoor-cooked foods are often visually appealing too. The charred exterior and vibrant colours of the marinade create a striking contrast, making the food even more enticing to eat. This style of cooking is not just about the food, though. It is also a cultural tradition that has been passed down through generations. In many parts of India, the tandoor oven is a central gathering place for the community. People come together to cook and eat, sharing stories and building bonds over a shared love of food. It is like a unique art form that requires skill, patience, and a deep understanding of spices, ingredients, and flavour. Whether you are cooking tandoori chicken, naan bread, or any other dish, the results are sure to be delicious, heartwarming, and unforgettable.

Here are some of the best tandoori dishes to try when visiting India:

Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori chicken is one of the most famous and beloved dishes in Indian cuisine. It is traditionally made by marinating chicken pieces in a mixture of yoghurt and spices, including cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. The marinated chicken is then cooked in a tandoor oven, which gives it a smoky, charred flavour while also keeping it juicy and tender. The chicken is usually served hot, garnished with lemon wedges, and accompanied by mint chutney or other sauces. Tandoori chicken is one of the most popular dishes in Indian cuisine and is enjoyed all around the world! Some of the many variations of the dish include boneless tandoori chicken, tandoori chicken tikka, and tandoori chicken wings. Some other chicken dishes cooked in a tandoor include malai murg kebab, reshmi kebab, tangdi kebab, etc. However, tandoori chicken is a delicious and satisfying dish that is sure to please anyone who loves bold flavours and spicy dishes.

Tandoori Paneer

Tandoori paneer is a delicious vegetarian dish that is inspired by the classic tandoori chicken. Paneer, a type of Indian cheese similar to tofu, is the main ingredient in this dish. To prepare it, the paneer is first marinated in a mixture of yoghurt and a blend of spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, and garam masala. Additional flavours like garlic, ginger, or lemon juice can also be added. The paneer is then left to marinate for several hours to allow the flavours to infuse into the cheese, making it tender and flavourful. After marination, the paneer is cooked in a tandoor oven, which imparts a unique smoky flavour and slightly charred texture. If a tandoor oven is not available, it can be grilled or baked in an oven. Tandoori paneer can be served as a main dish or an appetiser and is often paired with naan bread or rice. It is an excellent option for vegetarians or anyone who prefers a lighter, meat-free meal. Some of the other vegetarian tandoori dishes include tandoori mushrooms, tandoori fruit chaat, tandoori gobhi, tandoori aloo, etc.

Tandoori Naan

Tandoori naan is a type of Indian flatbread that is traditionally cooked in a tandoor oven. It is made with a dough that contains flour, yeast, salt, and sometimes milk or yoghurt to give it a soft, fluffy texture. The dough is typically rolled out into a round shape and then brushed with a mixture of water and black sesame seeds. The dough is then slapped onto the sides of the clay tandoor oven, where it bakes quickly at high heat. As it bakes, the naan puffs up and develops a slightly charred texture and a smoky flavour.

Although making tandoori naan is a straightforward process, there are many ways to enhance its flavour by incorporating various ingredients into the dough. For instance, garlic, coriander, or chilli flakes may be included to add a fiery touch to the naan. Others prefer to add butter or ghee to the dough to give it a creamier texture and a richer flavour. Tandoori naan is a versatile accompaniment that pairs well with many Indian dishes, like curries and kebabs. It can also be enjoyed as a standalone snack or appetiser. Some of the other kinds of breads that can be made are laccha paratha, kulcha, roti, taftoon, etc.

Tandoori Fish

Tandoori fish is a popular dish in Indian cuisine, particularly in coastal regions. It is made by marinating fish, usually a firm and meaty variety like seabass or kingfish, in a blend of spices and yoghurt. The marinade is similar to that used in preparing tandoori chicken. After the fish has been marinated, it is threaded onto skewers and cooked in a tandoor oven or grilled. The high heat of the oven gives the fish a slightly charred texture and a smoky flavour while also ensuring that it remains tender and moist. Tandoori fish is often served with a side of mint chutney, lemon wedges, and sliced onions. It can also be served with a side of rice or naan bread. Tandoori fish is a healthy and delicious way to enjoy seafood and is a great option for those who are looking for a low-fat and low-calorie meal. Some of the other tandoori seafood options include tandoori crab and tandoori prawns, which use the same kind of marinade as tandoori fish.

How To Make Tandoor Dishes At Home Without A Tandoor Oven?

Making tandoori dishes at home without a tandoori oven is possible with a few tips and tricks. Here are some ways you can recreate the flavours of tandoor cooking at home:

 Use a grill or oven: You can use a grill or oven to cook your marinated meats or vegetables. Preheat your grill or oven to a high temperature and cook your food on a wire rack to mimic the texture of tandoor cooking.

 Use a clay pot or pizza stone: Another way to mimic tandoor cooking is by using a clay pot or pizza stone. Preheat the pot or stone in your oven for 30 minutes, then cook your marinated food on it for a smoky, charred flavour.

 Marinate for a longer time: To make up for the lack of heat from a tandoor oven, marinate your food for a longer time, at least 2-3 hours, to allow the flavours to penetrate deeper into the meat or vegetables.

 Use a blend of spices: The spice blend used in tandoori cooking is what gives it its distinctive flavour. Make sure to use a blend of aromatic spices such as cumin, coriander, and garam masala to get the signature flavour of tandoori dishes.