Tandoori cooking involves marinated meat of any kind, hinged on a skewer, and placed over intense heat in a vertical tandoor oven. The tandoor oven originated in the settlements of the Indus Valley civilization, and is the basis for traditional tandoori open fire cooking. Although the tandoor oven is commonly used in the cuisines of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan; most people associate it with the delicious and savory kabobs served in Indian cuisine. Here at Dine In we love spicy food and tend to gravitate towards Indian cooking when we need that extra kick.
The tandoor is made of clay, and the heat is normally generated by wood or charcoal. The tandoor is typically vertical in built, and normally fitted into an enclosure. The tandoor exposes the meat to a style of convection cooking which rapidly circulates hot air letting foods cook at a lower temperature than a standard oven allowing for more even cooking. The vertical design of the oven forces the meat to smoke itself when the fat drippings and juices from the meats drip down onto the charcoal, creating smokiness. Tandoor ovens remain lit for a long duration in order to maintain the high cooking temperature which is normally 430-480 degrees Celsius.
The marinade for a proper tandoori kebab involves generous amounts of yogurt and an array of spices. The yogurt’s natural acidity and viscosity allows it to seal in the moisture of the meat and hold the spices in place. Tandoori is normally rubbed with various spices which help add a red or yellowish hue to the meat which makes it more appetizing. The red color is normally created when ground annatto seeds are used, and the yellow comes from a generous coating of saffron. If you can’t afford saffron which tends to be expensive, then food coloring will do the trick. Typical spice profiles for tandoori cooking include garlic, ginger, garam masala and coriander. The heat from spicy tandoori is often a result of cayenne pepper or red chili flakes. The tandoori meat is often marinated in the yogurt and spice mixture for a number of hours if not a day. Obviously, most people do not have access to a tandoor oven and in that case a grill or broiler works fine.
The Indian influence in New Zealand can be traced back to the end of the 18th century, most of whom worked on dairy farms and in the fields to support their families back in India. Auckland City and Wellington were areas in which these settlers established homes. According to government statistics, 23% of the total population of those New Zealanders who consider themselves of Indian descent were born in new Zealand. This plainly shows how strong the roots of the Indian community are in new Zealand, and why Kiwi’s love tandoori cooked food.
One of the best Indian eateries for tandoori is Mr India Tandoori Restaurant & Takeaway in Lower Hutt. This place offers some common and not so common tandoori baked dishes which make the mouth water. Not only do they offer the classic tandoori chicken and prawns, but they also offer such interesting fare as tandoori mussels and mushrooms. I don’t know what they put into their spice mix, but it is mellow and savory without skipping a beat. If you are not in the mood for tandoori, their eclectic and high quality menu will satisfy all your cravings for the tastes of India.