Chicken Tandoori is a chicken dish made by cooking marinated chicken in a clay oven. It is one of the most popular modern Indian dishes and most recognizable by people in other cultures when they think of Indian cuisine, but its origins go back further than almost any other dish we still eat today. In Harappa ruins that are dated back to the year 3000 BC there is evidence of charred chicken bones and clay oven remains that share the same shape as the modern Tandoors. The ovens were simple clay cylinders which would keep heat in and work in a very similar way to modern ovens, reaching temperatures of up to 480 degrees Celsius (900 degrees Fahrenheit) after being filled with charcoal and firewood. Personally, I do not really understand how the method is referred to as “slow cooking” in some sources while in a 900-degree oven, but I do not have an oven capable of that anyways. We get an inkling of the spices used from ancient Sanskrit writings that talk about mustard powder and fragrant spices being used on chicken in clay ovens.
Though the dish can be dated back extremely far, it has only become such a staple of Indian cuisine again more recently. An extremely famous restaurant known as Moti Mahal in Peshawar began serving the dish again in the 1940s and brought it back into the public eye. As for its popularity outside of India, it is said that Jacqueline Kennedy ate it on a plane ride back to the United States and lauded its taste, the recipe was then posted in the Los Angeles times in 1960. The dish was also popular among soviet leaders like Nikita Khrushchev during this period.
The recipe I used accounted for my lack of a proper tandoori oven with ways to use a normal oven. I just used a normal chicken breast as that was all the chicken I had on hand. The process started with cleaning the chicken and making some cuts along the side so that the marinade would be able to seep in and better absorb into the chicken as a whole rather than just the outside. The marinade itself I made with a bit of plain yogurt, oil, lemon juice, I didn’t have any ginger but there would have been ginger, garlic, Kashmiri chili powder, turmeric powder, cumin, coriander, and a little bit of chili powder but not very much because I am bad with spice, then just some salt to finish it off. This was a bit more involved than the cooking I usually do but I am decently happy with the results and went and cooked this at my parents’ house since they have a better oven than I do so I had a little help measuring and such. Then I cooked it for a short period before taking it out and putting on some more marinade, doing this several times before turning the oven higher to get some crisp on the outside.