November 08, 2023
Tandoori? What's that?
I did a double take at my local grocer in Lincoln Park when my favorite produce guy asked me what I was cooking. When I told him tandoori shrimp, he had no idea what I was talking about. And that's when it hit me - there is so much more educating to be done when it comes to Indian cooking in America. If you also are not familiar with this style of cooking. Not a worry, keep reading!
First, the word tandoor refers to a clay oven that operates at extremely high heat (upwards of 900 degrees Fahrenheit). It is used to cook breads slapped on the sides and is used throughout many regions of Asia and beyond. There used to be a Georgian (the country not the U.S. state) bakery on our Little India Devon Ave. in Chicago that had a huge tandoor right in the middle of it, where they would bake fresh bread daily. I was once almost thrown out by the owner for suggesting the tandoor was an Indian concept - that's how beloved this oven is to so many countries and cultures. In Punjab, India, they started to make marinated meat like chicken in this oven. That type of food is referred to as tandoori. It is that flaming and sizzling bright red chicken that is brought out on platters to your table. While I love the concept, I was not a fan of the red food dye now used to get it bright red. I still remember how disappointed I was to find tandoori masala blends even at Indian grocery stores listing 'red dye 40' as an ingredient as do many cookbooks. Thus, my own tandoori masala spice blend was born. We proudly make ours red with paprika. Click here to take a look.
The key in this recipe is to take our tandoori masala, add it to yogurt, add in other spices and/or ground ginger and garlic and marinate the protein overnight. The yogurt helps to lock in moisture. If you prefer not to use yogurt, simply mix a tablespoon of dry spice with two teaspoons of oil. To make your dish saucy, consider grabbing a jar of our Tikka Masala and simply add the grilled protein to it as is or with a few tablespoons of cream. And now you are ready to open up your own Indian restaurant!
Stovetop, Grill: Easy Tandoori Shrimp
1/2 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Indian As Apple Pie tandoori masala
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon Indian As Apple Pie red chile powder or cayenne
1 teaspoon Indian As Apple Pie garam masala
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1. In a roomy bowl, add the yogurt, tandoori masala, salt, red chile, and garam masala. Stir.
2. Place the shrimp in a separate bowl, add the lemon juice, and stir. Add the shrimp to the yogurt marinade and stir again. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours to overnight. Before cooking, pull it out and let it sit outside the fridge at least 20 minutes.
3. Heat a heavy, wide frying pan on the stovetop and add the oil. When hot, add the shrimp with tongs, leaving the excess marinade behind (there won't be much). Cook until brown and slightly crisped and caramelized. We like our proteins cooked through so the marinade also cooks.
Quick Tip: Our Indian yogurt is slightly unique. I grew up (like many others) with my mother making it at home with a starter that was brought over from India. The homemade version is slightly tangier then yogurt from mainstream US grocers. If you want to try Indian yogurt, look for 'Desi Yogurt' from an Indian grocery store. You can use it as a starter to make your own yogurt at home. The easiest way is in an electric pressure cooker. Check out my recipe in my latest book, Instant Pot Indian. If you already have my book and love it, please consider leaving a review.
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November 28, 2023