Currypedia No. 4: The Tandoor

It’s Thursday and that can only mean another exciting update from your favourite curryspondents. What do we have this week? Yes, it’s finally back … after a long absence the time has come to once again idly thumb through Trampy and The Tramp’s Currypedia and expand our minds with a blast of curry-related facts.

Having begun our educational odyssey munching through the poppadom before wolfing down some pakora and potatoes it seems like the right time to progress further into the Indian meal – and what better way to bridge the gap between the starters and the main course than to look into an essential piece of equipment for any Indian kitchen … The Tandoor.

The basic design of the Tandoor has remained the same for over 2000 years and it has been used in some form from Egypt and Iran, up through Turkey and Afghanistan and across Central Asia. The Tandoor is best known in the UK as an integral part of Indian cuisine – no self-respecting Indian restaurant or takeaway could be without one. But what exactly is it?

The Tandoor is a cylindrical clay oven, open at the top, traditionally heated with burning coals or wood placed at the bottom – although most modern restaurants will us electric or gas-fired ovens which are more easily controlled and cleaner for use indoors. The oven is lit several hours before cooking and kept stoked to maintain very high internal temperatures upwards of 350 C (even up to 480 C). Food is then cooked by being placed in the oven – meat (marinated chicken, lamb and kebabs typically) being placed on long skewers which are slid vertically down into the chamber, while breads such as naan are stuck to the inside wall to cook. Any sauces or gravies are prepared separately and should typically be served separately from the dry meat. The adjective "Tandoori" describes any food cooked cooked in the Tandoor.

As always, I like to hear what Glasgow’s very own curry guru Ali Aslam of The Shish Mahal has to say about our topic: “The Shish Mahal has two of these ovens, which require a great deal of skill and experience to use. The nature of the Tandoor contributes largely to the flavour of the food cooked in it, and it is virtually impossible to reproduce this effect in the home, but you can approach it very nearly either by using a charcoal-fired barbeque, or by cooking under a very hot grill, and turning the food frequently.” In this case Ali is only partially correct – he’s overlooked the lengths which some curry enthusiasts will go to to recreate that authentic taste at home …

Originally today’s post was meant to be the next instalment of the also scandalously Missing In Action section The Tramp’s Jukebox Puri … that is until I stumbled across two fascinating sites which both have a touch of the TATTGOC to them. First up we have The Tandoor Site – Outdoor Cooking The Indian Way. Created by Tandoor aficionado Piers Thompson (pictured with his half-built Tandoor) the site follows Thompson's project to build his very own Tandoor oven in his back garden and includes full step-by-step instructions on the building process. If that’s not enough, there are also tales of his trial-and-error escapades in attempting to recreate Tandoori dishes in the oven once it was completed. A true curry hero, Piers surely commands the respect of Trampy and The Tramp and the whole of the TATTGOC brotherhood.

Then, as if Piers’ site wasn’t enough, tucked away in his FAQ page I found a link to another, slightly more TATTGOC-reminiscent DIY Tandoor page. The snappily-titled Welcome To The Step By Step Guide To Building Your Own Tandoor is akin to what Mr T would have knocked up had The A-Team been locked in a shed while craving some Tandoori Lamb and couple of peshwari naan. This gem of a site teaches you how to create your own Tandoor using, I kid you not: An oil drum, cement, sand, fire cement or clay, a hinge, some wheels and some paint. Not only did this guy build his own Tandoor from scratch – he put it on wheels and painted flames up the side. Badass.

So there we have it – no Jukebox Puri this week but now we have the knowledge to create our very own TATTGOC Tandoor… on wheels. Move over MacGyver, Trampy and The Tramp are in town – and they’re driving a Tandoor. So, should TATTGOC get a summer project underway and start building our own?