Fans of Indian food may be well acquainted with the succulent bounty of the Tandoor. This hot, clay oven, developed in the Punjab region of India, is responsible for the range of Tandoori offerings that you are likely to find on the menus of London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants. However, the richly spiced, tender chicken we associate with this cooking technique here in the UK is not the sole option when it comes to the Tandoor. In fact, there is an assortment of culinary delights that the sub-continent create using this cooking method.
But firstly, how does the Tandoor work? The traditional Tandoor ovens of India are far removed from the sort of apparatus you might find in some of London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants; however, the principles remain the same. In rural areas of the Punjab, small villages would often have a communal Tandoor, usually in the form of a clay, bell-shaped type of oven, set deep into the earth and heated by burning wood or charcoal. These ovens are super-hot and can reach temperatures of 480 degrees Celsius, baking meats and breads to perfection whilst infusing them with that distinctive Tandoori flavour.
Of course, it is unlikely you will find one of these clay ovens set into the ground in your back garden here in the UK, but should you wish to re-create the smoky taste of the Tandoor, a charcoal grill provides a relatively similar option.
The treats of the Tandoor may be traditional to the Punjab specifically, but their popularity has spread too many of the other Indian states of the north and even further afield, to your favourite local Indian takeaway here in England. Let’s take a look at some of the best Tandoor delicacies…
1. Tandoori Chicken
We had to begin with the classic. Marinated pieces of chicken, slathered in a richly spiced yoghurt to help seal in the juices and tenderise the meat, are baked in the red-hot the oven. The bright Tandoori colouring comes from the cayenne or chilli power used to spice up the meat.
One of the most recognisable street food snacks of India, samosas are chunky, fried parcels, stuffed with all manner of treasures; from shredded meat to spiced potato and vegetables. However, some Indian cooks prefer to follow the Central Asian tradition of baking samosas instead of frying them – without all the hot oil, using the Tandoor is definitely the healthier choice.
3. Indian Flatbreads
For some Indian foodies, a meal isn’t complete without a warm flatbread to mop up the flavoursomegravies. Rotis, chapatis, naans and parathas are just some of the more popular flatbreads enjoyed in India. The dough for these breads would be pressed into the inner wall of the Tandoor where it will bake against the hot, clay surface.
4. Peshawari Seekh
The Tandoor might be known for its meats but there are some vegetarian options that fly below the radar. Peshawari seekh is a dish of cashews, cheese and corn, smothered in a spicy cream marinade and roasted within those hot, clay walls.
5. Balochi Aloo
Another vegetarian favourite, this delicacy is a creative take on the baked potato. The spuds are stuffed with Indian cheese, chopped vegetables, nuts and a smattering of spice before they are popped in the oven. Simple yet delicious.