Tandoori Masala: The Rub King of the Spice Jungle + A Recipe

Tandoori masala
Tandoori masala
Sudha Koul

In India, people always go out for Tandoori; now hardly anyone owns a tandoor, the North Indian clay oven after which the cuisine is named. Even when they did back in the day, it was more for baking quotidian nans and other mouthwatering breads, than for roasting the bright red colored non-vegetarian dishes most associated with the cuisine.

Tandoori cooking consists of two steps: marinate and roast. The average grill or broil functions in ovens are good enough substitutes for the clay Tandoor oven if you're not a fanatic. That leaves the rub, and there lies the rub, as Indian kitchens do not have recipes -- new or handed down -- for Tandoori masala. As a result Indians living and cooking abroad have spawned a commercially bottled plethora of the spice mixture which range from faint approximations to stunning true versions.

Sadly, the best, Sharwoods from England, has just been discontinued. This is a real loss and there are no substitutes; it was far and away, the most authentic bottled dry tandoori masala to be found on either side of the Suez Canal. So here is an attempt to come close to Sharwoods:

Tandoori Masala

From: Sudha Koul

Makes: 1 scant cup

1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds

1 tablespoon onion seeds

1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

1 stick cinnamon

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon garam masala,

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1. Toast and cool all the whole spices, then grind in a spice or coffee grinder. Combine all the ground spices together and store in an airtight bottle.

Tandoori Chicken

Note: For tandoori fish, a little less marinade will do.

Makes: 1 chicken

1 3-pound chicken

1-2 tablespoons tandoori masala

1 cup yogurt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon ground fresh ginger

5 cloves crushed garlic

salt to taste

1. Make deep cuts into the fleshy part of the bird, three parallel lines will do.

2. Mix one to two tablespoons (depending on how richly spiced you want the chicken) tandoori masala and the rest of the ingredients and rub into the bird. Marinate in the fridge for at least 12 hours for best results.

3. Broil or grill the marinated chicken.

Sudha Koul is a writer who also blogs at Curries without Worries.


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