For the uninitiated, the question of what tandoori tastes like is a fair question, but it’s akin to asking what barbecue tastes like. Tandoori cooking is very much a style rather than a single distinctive flavor, and within that particular style is a wide variety of ingredients that come together in delicious and sometimes very unique ways.
And much like barbecue, it’s not only a popular style of cooking in India, but one that can generate a lively debate over who makes the best tandoori.
For tandoori dishes of any sort, three things are required. The first, obviously, is a tandoor oven. It’s understandable that not everybody has a tandoor at home and may have to improvise, but for the average Indian restaurant it’s essential.
The second is the tandoori masala, the particular spice mix that helps give tandoori cooking its flavor. Much like barbecue sauce recipes here in America, there’s no one recipe for making tandoori masala, so each restaurant is likely to have its own unique version.
The third is the marinade, which helps tenderize the meat and infuse the spices into it. Much like the masala, the marinade is open to interpretation and variation, though it generally is built around a yogurt base.
Given the cultural and religious history of India, it’s unsurprising that the predominant protein used in tandoori cooking is chicken. But even with that seeming limitation, there are a lot of ways to prepare it.
Tandoori wings make for a nice light meal or appetizer, while tandoori chicken tikka makes nibbling easier. At the other end of things, particularly if people are sharing a meal, tandoori murgh takes an entire chicken and roasts it, giving everybody plenty to eat.
Chicken isn’t the only thing that can go in the tandoor, though. Tandoori fish is a delicious and somewhat lighter dish, often found in coastal areas. And for those adhering to a vegetarian diet, tandoori aloo (potatoes) and tandoori fruit chaat (green apple, pineapple, and green pepper) offer plenty of flavor.
If you’ve not had the opportunity, come on down to Little India try some of our excellent tandoori dishes. Or if you can’t quite make it out, give us a call and have some delivered. Your mouth will thank you.