Dish of the Day: Tandoori Chicken
Due to the fairly large Indian population in Singapore, Indian dishes are available in almost every nook and corner of the city.
Singapore is known for its delectable cuisine and delicious food and many locals reckon that if there is one thing that binds the Singaporeans irrespective of culture, caste and creed that is FOOD. The Indian cuisine is very popular but have you ever wondered what are the dishes that the locals and the tourists actually crave for? Well, we are not going to give you a Top – 10 list but concentrate on one Indian dish that is also my personal favorite – Tandoori Chicken. We will cover other Indian dishes too but for now let us focus on the bright orange glow that covers the chicken pieces and are usually sopped up with naan or basmati rice. I know you may be wondering what is a naan but that will be on some other day. For now, let us understand what makes tandoori chicken so popular in every corner of the world and why many people like me cannot resist the awesome taste!
How did it all start?
But did you know that tandoori chicken was almost non-existent? Yes, almost a hundred years back a man by the name of Mokha Singh Lamba started a very small restaurant in Peshawar in Pakistan. Right in the middle of the restaurant was placed a cylindrical shaped clay oven (aka tandoor) placed by a person working in that particular restaurant. His name was Kundan Lal Gujral. We all know that bread was baked in tandoor more than hundred years ago and there are unconfirmed reports of chicken being baked in tandoor ovens in the 16th century. But the chicken that Gujral baked had a bright red exterior and had a crispy skin. This version was a huge hit in those days but he was forced to leave Pakistan during the infamous Partition of India in 1947.
Was the recipe lost forever?
Well, not exactly. Gujral came back to Delhi and here he started a restaurant by the name of the Moti Mahal but its signature dishes were butter chicken and dal makhani. Here also he introduced his once famous tandoori chicken and needless to say, it became an instant hit. Many celebrities like Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy have visited this restaurant and tasted the delicious tandoori chicken and probably this is the reason why Gujral’s restaurant is credited with launching tandoori chicken in the international food map.
Was Gujral the real inventor of tandoori chicken?
Modern food experts believe that Gujral is single-handedly responsible for making the dish popular across the world but some argue that dishes which looked similar to tandoori chicken existed even during the Harappan civilization. Ancient ovens were found during the excavation of the Harappan civilization which looked very similar to the modern tandoors that you usually come across in Punjab, India and even in other parts of the world. They may have operated in the same manner but since we cannot say for sure whether people during the Harappan period enjoyed tandoori chicken like we do nowadays, we would love to credit Gujral as its original inventor.
How do we enjoy it?
Tandoori chicken can be enjoyed both as a starter and as a main course. It is usually served with flatbread (naan) although you can have it even without the bread. Tandoori chicken has now become a standard offering at all official banquets in India. However, if you really want to enjoy the dish to the fullest, throw away your knife and fork and use your hand to tear away the tender pieces of meat and put it in your mouth!
Remember nowadays tandoori chicken is usually served in restaurants with yogurt or a citrus based marinade and you need to purchase the flatbread separately. Chicken tikka is a very popular derivative of tandoori chicken.
Where can we get it in Singapore?
You can get tandoori chicken at any of the Indian restaurants in Singapore that are specialized in North Indian cuisine. To make it a bit simple for you, we suggest that you order from Royal Indian Restaurant wherein you will get full tandoori chicken for only SGD 25.90 . This dish is enough for 3 to 4 persons although I really don’t like sharing my tandoori chicken with anyone. 🙂
Le Rida on Robertson Quay is another good choice because they will cut your tandoori chicken into 8 pieces when you order a full version. It comes for SGD 32 but your job is half-done as they cut the chicken into 8 almost equal pieces and serve it to you. Their chicken is marinated with mild spices and taste heavenly.