Friday, September 24, 2010

Steamed Tandoori Chicken

Whoever said that necessity is mother of invention had his or her brain screwed just right. This recipe just proves that saying.Who doesn't know about Tandoori Chicken. If you are an Indian and you don't know about Tandoori chicken than please refer to the second part of the first line of this post, and the opposite implies on you. And if you are not an Indian, and haven't heard of it, you missing something in life.

Tandoori Chicken derives its name from the fact that the chicken is cooked in a Tandoor, an Indian clay pot heated to high temperature traditionally using coal. This gives it a distinctive flavor to the chicken apart from the fact hat it is  marinated in yogurt and spices. The spice blend used for the chicken also takes from the Tandoor, and is called Tandoori Masala. Its quiet ironic in a way that Tandoori chicken, that gets its name from "Tandoor" has become a household recipe, without the Tandoor. You can grill it in your oven, barbecue or steam it.

I think some eyebrows will be raised at the fact that I steam this traditional recipe. When I shifted to Kuwait for good, to live with the love of my life, we weren't sure if this was it. If this is were we really wanted to be. For more than a year we kept waiting for that light of knowledge to strike us. We just couldn't decide if we wanted to stay on. But the worse part of this was that I could not make any major purchases for the part of the year, and most of things were left to "lets wait and see". One of the sufferers in this confusion was my dear " oven". If you are an Tandoori chicken fanatic, and you don't have an oven, don't have a barbecue, what do you do? Oh dear steam it. The fact is, the next year we got our barbecue and then we bought an oven. But this method has stayed on in my family as a favorite! Even though we go out to the beach to barbecues when time has it, have baked chicken, but when it comes to using that tandoori spice at home, we just want to steam it.

There are some basic reasons to it. One of the important thing is the texture. Steaming results into a very juicy and succulent chicken. The beautiful stock that's formed due to steaming makes it easier to serve with rice or roti. And if you ask me, my favorite part are the steamed vegetables that are steamed along with chicken and spices! Besides I think its much easier to pack things in a foil, leave it to steam and come back for dinner when foil is opened at the table. Love that face when everyone engulfs the steam and the aroma of the spices even before it gets into there system.

Steamed Tandoori Chicken
Serves 3

1 kg Chicken thighs *
1-2 Green bell pepper**
2 Red onions (sliced)
1 Tomato ( sliced)
1 Carrot ( sliced)
3 tbsp Tandoori Masala (recipe below)***
1/2 cup Yogurt
1 tsp Black pepper powder
 2 cloves Garlic
1 inch Ginger ( I first wrote thumb size and then checked my thumb and realized damn my thumb is really tall! weird stuff)
1 green chilly (optional)
Salt to taste

Tandoori Masala ****
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp cloves  powder
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg 
1/2  tsp mace powder
1 tbsp cumin  powder
2 tbsp ground coriander powder
1 tsp fenugreek powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp green cardamom powder
1/2 tsp mango powder
1 tbsp red chilly powder
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric powder

*  I have used drumsticks and thighs for this recipe in past. Both work perfectly. I'm sure though breast would work fine as well. If you use breast, consider adding a tbsp or two of olive oil to keep it extra moist

** I use green, red and yellow bell pepper if I have them on hand. Anything will work. Infact go ahead and add your favorite vegetables.

*** You could use the store bought tandoori masala. I'm sure many of you would prefer doing just that. My only problem with store bought tandoori is masala is the artificial color. The right amount of turmeric gives you an amazing color. Besides really I don't like all that red color working in my food. No thank you please, I'll make my own. Tastes better. Feels better.

**** For the tandoori masala I freshly grind whole spices but ginger powder, garlic powder, sweet paprika, turmeric, red chilly powder and mango powder are ready grounded ones.


Get all those spices working into a powder to get this. See it's a lovely color.

Wash and pat dry the chicken. Mix the yogurt, spices, garlic, ginger,salt and chilly (if using). Coat well on the chicken and leave to marinate overnight. That ofcourse is ideal, but half an hour works fine too.

Take a large piece of aluminum foil. Well, large can be a missing leading word here but I swear I can't go with a measure tape and measure my foil. That's just not me. Remember you are going to place the chicken in this and then wrap it up to form a parcel.Layer your vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the marinated chicken on the vegetables with the marinade.

Collect the four corners of the foil to form a neat little parcel. You could for safe measure double wrap it. At this point you can tuck it in the oven or use your stove top. I put the foil on an iron cast tawa (flat griddle) for 40-45 minutes at low flame.
This is how we love it. Hot and steaming. But I thought of trying to give it more of a tandoori grilled chicken look and dry roasted the chicken pieces on a non stick pan for the color effect! I think it worked see.
We serve it with coriander raita, the recipe for which can be found here.
Go ahead and try this.


  1. Kulsum,
    I can so very much relate to this "lets wait and see" mindset...I m actually in the same phase right nw...we also think a lot before buying stuff.This state of mind has its upsetting as well as light moments..but I think eventually life takes its own course...for good!
    The steamed version is really new to me and quite innovative...will give it a shot next time when I make this classic!

  2. good this time..
    chicken is innovative and nice.

  3. wow great idea Kulsum, though i love tandoori chicken sometime when it is over baked chicken looses it tenderness and moisture, steaming and mild toasting sounds great idea kudos lady :) And am happy that you sis is coming to you, lucky girl have fun darling with some of your cake creation for her :D

  4. I would be very curious to try this steamed. I am sure that the texture is very different.

  5. what a interesting approach. i think i might try it.

  6. A terrific way of making tandoori chicken, super delicious!

  7. Tandoori chicken is one of my favorites! I love your steamed version! Delicious!

  8. I love your idea of steaming and much less mess to clean up. It sounds so flavorful!

  9. That sounds amazing steaming a tandoori chicken! It would stay so moist I would imagine! :D

  10. mmmmm, that looks really yummy, can't wait to try it and eaaaat :D

  11. Ok, this is literally making my mouth water. I love tandoori chicken and the idea of steaming it is brilliant!

  12. YUM! Interesting method of cooking Kulsum!

  13. I like how your step by step
    preparation style!No wonder this
    is indeed a full-flavor meal! Well done!

  14. Interested recipe! Steamed!

  15. I love tandooried fish too. Thanks for the recipe. Can't wait to try it.

  16. This is an amazing chicken dish! I love all these spices here, bet it's irresistbile when you unwrap the foil. I will try this tomorrow as I'm planning to marinade it overnight.

  17. Tandoori chicken is my favor...
    Texture is very different to see...

  18. could u steam the same in an electric rice cooker

  19. Do you put water on the tava? Or the foil is kept directly?? Do you cook it with lid on?

  20. Do you put water on the tava? Or the foil is kept directly?? Do you cook it with lid on?

    1. Yes, you will have to add little water on tavs so as to not get foil to burn. And yes to a lid too! Sorry for the unclear instructions. I suggest instead of tava you use a heavy bottom saucepan, so it's easier to add water.


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