We have a lot of menu items that are cooked in a tandoor oven, but unfortunately very few Americans actually knows what’s going on inside the kitchen. We’d like to pull back the veil on your favorite Indian restaurant food—if you know you love the distinctive taste of tandoori meats, but you don’t know why, read on!
Tandoori is the adjectival form of the word tandoor, which is what what we call the vertical clay ovens we use to cook everything from meat to bread. Tandoors aren’t just found in India—many cultures across the Middle East, Asia, Pakistan, and Eastern Europe use tandoors for cooking, though the most common style is usually associated with the Punjabi region in the northern area of India and Pakistan. It used to be very common for a small village to or settlement to share a communal tandoor, and there are still places in rural Punjab today where the community shares a tandoor.
So what is a tandoor? It’s a vertical clay pot that can remain hot for long periods of time, reach very high temperatures, and cook food inside using radiant heat, convection heat, and smoking, a triply-effective method that cooks materials fast while retaining moisture and requiring very little grease or oil. Unlike Western horizontal ovens, where you open a vertical door and slide in what is to be cooked, meat is usually lowered on skewers into the tandoor (allowing it to cook evenly on all sides) and bread is baked directly on the side of the tandoor. You’d think the naan or roti would fall off, but the walls themselves are usually marinated with ghee or spices and bread will stick to the sides of the oven as it bakes!
What comes from our tandoor at India Gate? Plenty! We serve lamb kebaabs still on the skewer they were roasted on, or perhaps you’d prefer an Iran-inspired hariyali kebaab of chicken marinated in mint, yogurt and spices. We also have the classic Tandoori Chicken, which is marinated in yogurt, ginger, garlic and spices like cayenne pepper, red chili powder, turmeric, or Kashmiri chili powder that give it a bright, fiery red hue. We can also cook prawns, cubes of lamb, or a whole rack of lamb in our tandoor, not to mention nine different kinds of naan!
Come in to India Gate in Bellevue, order something from our Tandoor, and dazzle your dining companions with your knowledge of how, exactly, the tandoor oven works! We bet the food will taste even better now that you understand the ancient regional techniques involved.