When one generally thinks of north Indian food, the first things that come to mind are butter chicken, tandoori chicken, chicken tikkas, dal makhani and naan. These seem to be the stereotypical food impressions that have been embedded in most people’s minds, and though the cuisine is vast and varied, there’s also a reason why these seem to be the first things people think about. They are absolutely delicious! You will also find them in almost every Indian restaurant’s menu anywhere in the world, WITHOUT FAIL.
Before March, my cooking inclinations veered strongly to continental and very simple dishes that required very few or no masalas. In fact, I have always shunned any dishes which required the use of masalas earlier as I had no understanding of them and no inclination to understand them either. Every time I saw a recipe that flowed into dhaniya powder, jeera powder, chilly powder, garam masala…. I would zone out at the garam masala and fugggedaboutit. I kid you not. It was just that intimidating to me. Chicken tikkas were not even a consideration at home. I also didn’t care much for the food and we hardly went to an Indian restaurant anytime we had to eat out unless we had visitors from abroad.
That changed last November. Went to Poland for a holiday and while I ate wonderful Polish food and other continental dishes that were delicious, most of it was lacking any spice. After 10 days my genetically configured Indian palate was CRAVING chilly, chatpata (spicy, sour, salty) flavours and my food preferences took a 180 degree turn. Since then I’ve been attacking spicy Indian foods and all of that butter chicken, tandoori chicken, chicken tikkas, bhuna mutton, naan, chole bhature and the like.
When the country shut down in March, I decided it was time to start understanding Indian spices and losing my fear of them. I started slowly making more of these at home (especially after the cook went on extended leave) and realised it’s as easy as you want it to be. These chicken tikka rolls with my Simply Delicious Potato Paranthas are a huge hit with my family now and last night’s dinner got me many words of appreciation.
I used only chicken thighs for this chicken tikka recipe. Chicken thighs take slightly longer to cook and are more succulent than chicken breasts – which can dry out in seconds. It’s always tricky working with those buggers. If you’re using just chicken breasts for this recipe, I would suggest cutting the low cooking time (on the lowest heat) from three minutes to 1.5 minutes. Then these chicken tikkas would take only three and a half minutes time to cook per batch from the five minutes for the chicken thighs. If you’re using a mix of breast and thigh, you would have to cook it till the thighs are done. I would suggest, for best and most optimum flavour, go solely with chicken thighs.
These chicken tikkas are so easy to make and so so quick once you get to the grilling stage. Literally five minutes prep, marinate overnight, and five minutes grilling per batch. And they are scrumptious. DO NOT overcook them or undercook them. After making these chicken tikkas a couple of times you will come to your own method of getting them right on the heat. Its all about practice and knowing your hob or burner intensities.
My chicken tikkas are not overly spicy. I feel they have a right balance where all the flavours meld together nicely. I use Kashmiri mirch powder which is a mild chilly powder that has more colour than heat. Most places go overboard with the chilly, or the garam masala, or black pepper in their kebabs and then that’s all one gets to taste – this burning sensation in your mouth, drowning out everything else. Ugh, not for me. You are most welcome to add more chilly, but give this chicken tikka recipe a go as it is, once.
Ingredients (Serves 10)
750 gms chicken thigh cut into 1.5 inch cubes
For the marinade
1 cup thick yoghurt (235 gms)
1 tsp salt (I used pink salt)
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1 tsp coriander powder (dhaniya)
1½ tsp Kashmiri mirch powder (or any mild chilly powder)
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp chaat masala
For assembly and grilling
10 six-inch bamboo or wooden skewers
1 non-stick griddle pan for best results
4 tbsp vegetable oil
Get Started (pictorial steps below)
- Mix all the ingredients under ‘marinade’ nicely and add that to the chicken pieces. Cover with an airtight seal and leave to marinate overnight (best flavour) else can also marinate for a couple of hours at least.
- Soak the wooden skewers in water for about 10 minutes, then shake off all the excess water. Skewer the chicken pieces one after another on the wooden sticks making sure not to pack them too tight together. About six pieces per stick is comfortable.
- Drizzle two tablespoons of oil on the griddle pan and turn the heat up to high. When the oil is hot, place some of the chicken skewers on the pan and keep it on high heat for a minute. Then turn the heat to medium and turn the skewers over and keep for another minute. Then reduce the heat to the lowest setting for three more minutes turning the skewers every minute. Remove from the pan and let it rest for five minutes.
- Continue this process till all the skewers are cooked. Between batches you can rub off the charred bits on the pan with clean napkin paper on a pair of tongs so that the next batch doesn’t burn excessively. Re-oil the pan before the next lot.
- Serve immediately with a side of lemon and a green chutney, though these are amazing on their own. Best enjoyed hot. If you have to re-heat these, place them on a microwaveable plate, cover them with another microwaveable plate and microwave for 1 minute.