Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Chicken
North Indian Cuisine

Tandoori Chicken

A dish of roasted chicken marinated in yogurt and generously spiced, giving the meat its trademark red colour.

The tandoor is thought to have been first used around 5000 years ago in Central Asia and brought to India around 3000 years ago. These first tandoors were never used to cook meat but were used to bake flatbread, a tradition that survives today with the Naan and Roti.

The first record of meats cooked in the tandoor was in the 8th century BC, when the acclaimed Indian surgeon Sushruta talks about how the searing heat and smoke, and moisture-retaining properties of the tandoor, make it equally effective for roasting meat on vertical skewers.

It coincided with the Ayurvedic philosophy of cooking which took a holistic approach to the foods we eat. Food was believed to affect our minds and bodies, and so it needed to be natural and balanced. It also needed to incorporate all six tastes — salty, sour, sweet, pungent, bitter and astringent.

Later in the 16th century, Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who built the Taj Mahal, held the tandoor cooked chicken and lamb in such high esteem that he had a portable metal model constructed to take on his travels.

However it was only brought to the mainstream in the 1950s when the Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi started serving tandoori chicken. The first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru is said to have loved it so much, he made them a staple of official banquets attended by visiting world leaders.

The rest, as we all know, is history.