The Tandoor Oven

Tandoor Oven

When we talk about tandoori dishes, we’re talking about more than just the distinctive marinade that generally flavors such dishes. The word “tandoori” refers specifically to the tandoor oven, in which tandoori-style food is traditionally cooked.

Such ovens have been used at least as far back as 9000 BC, and have served as an important part of the culinary traditions in India as well as much of the rest of Southern, Western, and Central Asia.

The tandoor oven generally comes in the form of a large, clay cylinder, open at the top, with a wood or coal fire on the bottom. It is designed to reach very high temperatures, with the thick clay walls serving to trap the fire’s heat and let it build up to intensities that easily exceed 500 degrees.

The tandoor oven generally comes in the form of a large, clay cylinder, open at the top, with a wood or coal fire on the bottom. It is designed to reach very high temperatures, with the thick clay walls serving to trap the fire’s heat and let it build up to intensities that easily exceed 500 degrees.

As the walls warm up, they provide for an even heat that bombards the food from all sides. Chefs will often keep their fires roaring for hours or even days at a time to maintain a proper temperature for tandoori cooking.

Tandoori cooking is great for meat dishes, most notably the classic tandoori chicken that appears as a favorite in many Indian restaurants. In this recipe, the meat is coated first with a form of plain, mild yoghurt and a selection of spices that might include turmeric, ginger, garlic, coriander powder, cayenne pepper, and garam masala.

Pieces of the meat are then stuck on skewers and lowered into the tandoor oven; the thick yoghurt serves to hold the seasonings in place while they cook, while its natural acidity acts to bring out the best of the marinade. The final result has a pleasing seared quality, and the complex, often intense level of spiciness that many people have come to expect from their Indian cuisine.

Tandoor ovens are not just for meat dishes, though. This is also where an Indian restaurant is going to prepare most of its breads, including lavash, samosas, and naan. After the dough of these breads is prepared, it is slapped up against the sides of the oven. The intense heat cooks it quickly, allowing a restaurant to put out large batches of bread to be enjoyed as appetizers.

At MokSHA, you can enjoy the bounty of the tandoor oven in many different forms.