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Tandoori Chicken Without the Tandoor July 8, 2008

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food, food porn.

First off, I’m going to offer a disclaimer.

Most truly authentic, just-like-my-grandmother used to make “ethnic” foods require certain equipment – whether it’s a tortilla press, a tagine, an aebleskiver pan, a pasta roller, a wood-fired oven, a tandoor, or an elderly grandmother who doesn’t speak English. We don’t have any of those things. While Peeps and I are certainly proud of our respective heritages, we are unequivocally Americans, and, as such, whatever it is we attempt to cook will, by necessity, be our interpretation and influenced by our own experiences. And let’s face it, we’re not about to buy a tandoor.

However, that’s not to say that what we may cook isn’t, if not the same as the “real thing,” certainly worth eating.  Like our take on tandoori chicken. Indian food is so diverse – it ranges from incredible flatbreads to well-seasoned tandoori chicken, to chutneys and pickled vegetables, to basmati rice and the most heavenly rice pudding I have ever tasted. And, of course, there’s the whole curry line.

But for now, we’re concentrating on Tandoori chicken, just sort of streamlined. Yeah, streamlined, that’s it. Do you remember the molé chicken from a little while back? This recipe will actually be made very much the same way, believe it or not. 😯


First thing we’re going to do is make the marinade. Since we’re doing this the same basic way that we did the molé, the recipe will ultimately make 4-6 servings, but I’m splitting it in half. What can I say, there are just the two of us and, much as I love this recipe, I don’t want leftover chicken every single day this week.

So. Marinade. We’re going to start with a 2-cup measure and 1/2 cup of vegetable oil (nothing fancy – I just use canola) and 1/4 cup of water. (Don’t worry too much about the oil – it’s going to go to make at least 6 six servings, and, since it’s a chicken marinade, most if will ultimately get pitched anyway.) You can try whisking them together, but, well you know what they say about oil and water. . .   Just dump in a Tablespoon of minced fresh ginger.

Photobucket Photobucket

To the oil mixture, you’re going to want to add the following spices:

  • 1 Tbsp. coriander
  • 1½ tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

I know, weird, huh?  But trust me. This may be be heavily seasoned, but it’s not anything remotely “spicy.” And besides, there’s more!

Now we’re going to do the best we can to whisk together the ingredients, keeping in mind, first, the whole oil and water thing, and second, the ginger is going to want to sink to the bottom of the cup the minute you take your eyes off it.


That’s the turmeric that makes it look so yellow – and be careful with that stuff – it stains! It’s what puts the “yellow” in your yellow mustard!

PhotobucketAnyway, once everything’s combined, we’re going to measure 2 Tablespoons (4 Tablespoons if you’re not splitting the recipe in half) into a smaller, coverable container, and add to it 2 Tablespoons (or 4) of our old friend, non-fat yogurt, and stir together, cover, and set aside for serving.

If you’re playing along with the split version, divide the remaining marinade (about 3/4 cup) in half – freeze half for later, and dump the other half into your handy-dandy zip-top bag of chicken for marination, say, at least overnight, but basically, as long as you feel comfortable leaving raw chicken in the fridge, I guess.


So now, with the magic of internet time (that’s kind of like magic TV time, only, well, more magical), the chicken has been marinating overnight and it’s close to dinner time.

And as it happens we don’t have any bread in the house, other than a half loaf of sourdough rosemary potato bread, that, while yummy, isn’t quite the best accompaniment for Indian-style food.   Whatever shall we do? What goes with Indian food? Hmmmm. . . .how about some naan? I mean, any kind of bread is always a good thing, as far as I’m concerned, and a bread whose actual name actually means bread? Sign me up.

So we found a recipe, and it’s about an hour before dinner time, which is just enough time to let it rise. Barely.

Time to start cooking. Heat up the grill. Gotta love the grill in the summer, don’t you?   While the grill is heating, I start shaping the naan loaves.


They’re kind of ugly, yes. But I like to think of them as rustic.

With this particular recipe, the dough was very wet, and even kneading in an extra cup of flour, it was still very difficult to work with. However, I’m a sport, and I have found that a soft, wet dough tends to result in a nicely tender loaf, so I bravely sucked it up. Buttercup.

Oh yeah, the naan recipe said to bake in the oven. Not so much. It’s hot out.  And we shut the air off when the temps dipped below 70° the other day. . . so I figure the least we can do is at least attempt to cook the bread on the grill. . . so that’s where we went with it.


Not a great picture, I know. Have I mentioned that (a) I’m the world’s worst photographer, and (b) the deck (and, therefore, the grill) is on the west – sunny – side of the house? Yeah, you gotta be careful with light – it’s a funny thing when it comes to photography, it seems.

Anyway, we cooked the entire batch of naan, of which we ate maybe a third with dinner, and the rest, once it was cooled, Peeps wrapped in foil and stuck in the freezer for another day.


So the bread is done, tucked into the basket, and keeping warm, and the rice is in the house doing its thing in the rice cooker – by this time, actually, it’s “thing” is resting. 🙂 Time to cook the chicken. Basically, it truly is just like the molé – since we’ve already made our sauce, we’re just going to remove the chicken from the marinade, toss it on the grill, and discard the raw-chicken-germy marinade. 😯


Grill your chicken until it’s done – we used medium-sized boneless-skinless breasts, so it usually takes about 5 minutes each side on the grill – it might take less or more time time, depending on how, um, big big your breasts are.

You know, no matter how many times I have to use that phrase, it’s still weird.
Yeah, I know, how old am I?
Spoon the yogurt sauce over the chicken, and serve with some basmati rice, and maybe some lentils, and, of course, our fresh naan, it is a-freaking-mazing.


The chicken is thoroughly seasoned, but not “spicy” in the sense we think of spicy. The spices are fragrant, but work together to create a flavor that’s unmistakable. Best of all, the chicken – with the sauce – is low in calories and fat, if, of course, you’re counting: Calories-173 (Calories from fat – 27); Fat-3.0g (saturated fat – .8g); Protein-33.2g; Total Carbohydrates-1.3g (Dietary Fiber-.3g; Sugars – .5g); Cholesterol-83mg; Sodium-291mg.

It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?



1. origamifreak - July 8, 2008

Mmm. Save some for me – I’ll be right over. Hehe.

Actually one of the better Indian restaurants I know of around here is over in your direction, in Victor.

2. ToyLady - July 9, 2008

I do like the India House in Victor, but I’ve always liked the original location downtown better. Maybe it’s just something about the atmosphere – dark and mysterious. 😯

Though I haven’t been to either in years. . .

3. origamifreak - July 9, 2008

Haven’t been to the one in downtown Roc. A colleague told me they have a small store where you can buy things like spices and pappadum, things like that.

Since I live closer to them, I find myself more often going to the ones in Ithaca. New Delhi Diamonds downtown, and Sangam in Collegetown.

4. ToyLady - July 10, 2008

Yes, as I recall, it’s (or it was) across the street from the restaurant, along with the vegetarian restaurant.

I’m not terribly familiar with Ithaca – I think the last time I was there was a “field trip” for an environmental geology course. 🙄 There’s a lot of geology around Ithaca. 😉 That, and the earthquake lab at Cornell.

5. But What About the Butter? « Dark Side of the Fridge - April 21, 2009

[…] That said, for me, a little goes a long way.  We’ve come up with a reasonable facsimile for tandoori chicken that we can make at home, and other than that, I tend to visit Indian restaurants when […]

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