“It smells good in here.”
That’s what Keith said as he wandered by. I was leaning in, photographing spoonfuls of spices that I’d later mix with yogurt for beautiful tandoori marinade.
There was sweet, grassy coriander and bright lemon juice. Tangy yogurt and earthy garam masala. The ingredients slid together into intoxicating deliciousness – not without a bit of sass thanks to the fresh ginger and spicy garlic.
Tandoori is enjoyed from Pakistan to India … even, as we learned this week, as far as the tiny island country of Palau, way out in the Pacific.
To eat proper tandoori, you need a tandoori oven. These cylinders of shimmering heat create addicting char-grilled flavor while retaining perfect moisture.
At home you can approximate the flavor of good tandoori in your regular oven or on the grill. Try this marinade next time you bake or grill fish (and even chicken).
Your house will smell like an exotic market.
3-4 lbs fish like cod, salmon … or even chicken
1 cup yogurt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tsp paprika (for mild)
1 Tbsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne (for heat, optional)
salt, to taste
1. Gather your spices, garlic, and ginger.
2. Mix them with yogurt, lemon juice, and vegetable oil.
Some people like to use red food coloring to dye their tandoori, but the more paprika you use, the redder your tandoori marinade will be. It’s all natural and totally yummy.
3. Spread the marinade on the fish, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes-1 hour. (Chicken can be marinated in this way overnight).
Now for the fun – cook as desired either in the oven or on the grill. We grilled our salmon on a well-oiled, medium-hot grill and it still stuck a bit.
Here’s what we learned, so that you can avoid a similar issue:
- Preheat the grill over high, then reduce heat when you add the fish.
- Be sure to rub oil on the grates at least 10 times, until shiny black.
- Don’t fuss with the fish – if it resists at all it isn’t ready to turn yet.
- Start serving side down, so the pretty grill marks show better (the second side never seems to get as good of a sear).
Enjoy the subtle heat of cumin, coriander, garam masala, and paprika … oh, and those unctuous grill marks.
P.S. If you want to bake the tandoori, The Best International Recipe suggests baking at 500F on a lined baking sheet with wire rack (this way the heat gets all around the fish/chicken). You turn halfway through and top with more marinade. I haven’t played around with this, but it’s a great way to go if you’re nervous about sticking food or you’re ready to bring the kitchen back inside for the fall.