One of Great Britain’s most popular take-out foods, chicken tikka is also the first step in the classic Indian dish, Chicken Tikka Masala – chunks of chicken in a rich, creamy, spicy red sauce served with basmati rice. If you have leftover chicken tikka, look for jars of tikka masala sauce and pouches of cooked basmati rice at the grocery store or gourmet shop – you’ll have an authentic Indian meal in minutes.
Tikka, the Hindi word for kebab, is a
classic Indian dish from the southern part of the country. Savory bits of
meat, primarily chicken and lamb, are marinated overnight in a creamy,
spicy blend of yogurt and spices. Traditionally, they are then cooked in a
clay tandoor oven – lending a smoky flavor to the finished skewers. To get
this flavor at home, tikkas can be grilled outdoors or use a cast-iron
grill pan indoors, finishing the skewers in the oven.
The spices used in the yogurt marinade include fresh ginger and garlic; ground coriander seeds (from the fresh cilantro plant); ground turmeric, a root related to ginger, which lends the yellow color of tikka; and garam masala, a spice blend found in Indian cuisine that includes coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves and more.
Place the skewers in a shallow dish or pan, and allow them to soak overnight while the chicken is marinating. Skin, de-bone and cut the chicken thighs into 1-inch pieces and place in a bowl or a freezer bag. Mince the garlic, grate the ginger and juice the lemon. Then begin adding these, along with the yogurt and other spices. Toss thoroughly to coat, and place in the refrigerator overnight to marinate.
The next day, preheat your grill or grill pan to medium heat. Skewer the chicken – placing four to five pieces on each skewer. Grill until brown and golden on each side four to six minutes – turning frequently to get all sides browned. If cooking indoors, you can finish the chicken tikka in the oven by transferring your grill pan to an oven preheated to 350 degrees. Finish baking for 10-15 minutes.
To serve, try making the classic raita – a mix of yogurt, mint and cucumbers; purchase fruit or mint chutneys; and look for papadums, a par-baked puffy, crispy cracker that you can heat and serve along side the skewers.