Probably the most universal method of cooking, barbecue is found in regional variations all over the world. In India, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Balkans, Central Asia, Burma, and Bangladesh, it flourishes in the form of the tandoor. In these parts of the world, the tandoor is the accepted form of grilling. The term “tandoor” is used to describe both the cylindrical clay oven used for cooking and baking and the method of cooking itself.
The tandoor is said to have traveled to Central Asia and the Middle East along with the Roma or Romani people, also known to the Western world as Gypsies. Archaeological evidence points to the existence of the tandoor in the ancient sites of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro dating as far back as 3000 B.C. The popularity of the tandoor in India continued through the periods of Muslim rule in South Asia till date when the chicken tikka masala reigns supreme in restaurants over the world.
The heat for the tandoor is traditionally generated by a charcoal or wood fire burning within the tandoor itself. Temperatures within the tandoor can approach up to 480°C (900°F) and it is not unusual for them to remain lit for long periods to maintain the high temperature. The typical foods cooked in the tandoor are certain types of Iranian, Afghan, Pakistani, and Indian dishes such as the tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, and bread such as tandoori roti and naan. The chicken tikka is a South Asian dish made by grilling small pieces of chicken which have been marinated with spices and yogurt. It is traditionally boneless and cooked on the tandoor in skewers. It could be eaten like a kebab with green coriander chutney or could be used to prepare the curry chicken tikka masala.
The other favorite, tandoori chicken is a roasted delicacy that originated in North-Western India. It later became a popular Punjabi dish during the time of the Mughals in Central and Southern Asia and remains popular in that area to date. The chicken is marinated in yogurt seasoned with typically Indian spices such as garam masala, ginger, garlic, cumin, peppers, and turmeric for the red color. Cooked traditionally in the clay oven, it can also be done on a grill.
Like the barbecue itself, the journey of the tandoor continues unabated, with Pakistani and Indian restaurants serving up tandoori delicacies to countless guests all over the world. The tandoori repertoire has gone on to include all kinds of meats, seafood, poultry, vegetables, and even fruits and cheeses and its popularity continues to increase manifold every day.