Welcome to our first post in ‘The Indian-inspired Grills and Kebab Series’.
Did you know? The popular Indian clay-oven called ‘Tandoor’ can reach temperatures of 900F (480C)… and it never gets turned off, there is always a slow fire burning at the base of the tandoor to maintain core temperature. As the predecessor to modern day grills, this essentially Indian above-ground barbeque pit uses high temperature convection cooking to sear and char food, simultaneously sealing in the flavors and juices.
So an ideal start to our Indian-inspired Grills and Kebab Series is the well-known restaurant favorite, ‘Chicken Drumsticks or Tangdi Kebab’ (the word ‘tangdi’ literally means leg in Hindi), also known as ‘Kalmi Kebab’ in India. These kebabs are marinated with yogurt, lemon and spices for a few hours and are best cooked on the outdoor grill (an ideal replacement to a tandoor) to render a succulent kebab.
Our chicken kebabs are served with a simple Cilantro-Yogurt chutney (recipe below), which takes its flavors to a new level. At the end of this post, you will find accompaniment ideas to make the chicken drumstick kebabs a perfect meal experience.
Worth knowing: most restaurant versions of this kebab achieve the signature red-orange look of the drumstick kebabs by using orange food color. We use a natural spice to get that ‘Indian kebab color’, read on to find out.
Chicken Drumstick Kebabs
2 lbs chicken drumsticks, skin removed
1½ tablespoon thick yogurt (use Greek yogurt, if possible)
1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste (or 2 cloves minced garlic, ¼ inch ginger minced)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon garam masala
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon smoked paprika*
*Smoked sweet paprika or smoked paprika is the magic spice that lends an amazing natural red color and smoky flavor to the kebabs without increasing the spice-levels. It’s available in the spice-seasonings section of grocery stores and is worth having in your pantry to add a delicious smoky touch to meats and vegetables.
Marinate the chicken drumsticks with yogurt, ginger garlic paste, lemon and spices/salt. (A convenient and hygienic way to marinate meats is to use a new Ziploc bag, this helps the meat marinate uniformly.) Leave the chicken drumsticks to marinate in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours.
Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to 500F. Grease the wire rack and lay the drumsticks directly on the rack. Cook them; turning halfway through the cooking process. The meat should have a charred kebab-look and an internal temperature of 180F. Immediately, drizzle fresh lemon juice on the hot drumsticks. Cover with a foil and let them stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Don’t have an outdoor grill? Use your oven…
Preheat the oven to 425F. Grease a baking sheet with a wire rack on it. Lay the drumsticks on the rack and cook for 20-25 minutes till drumsticks are done (internal temperature 180F).
Cilantro Yogurt Chutney
1 cup cilantro leaves
7-9 mint leaves
2 garlic cloves
¼ teaspoon cumin powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoon sugar
3 teaspoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons thick yogurt (use Greek yogurt, if possible)
In a mini food processor, blend the cilantro leaves, mint leaves, garlic cloves, cumin powder, salt and sugar till you get a thin paste consistency (add a teaspoon of water at a time to help the blending process.) Then add lemon juice and yogurt and pulse a few times to bring the chutney together. Serve as a dipping sauce along with any Indian kebab. (I like to use this chutney as a sandwich spread too.)
Accompaniments and Serving Ideas:
- Chicken Drumstick Kebabs are best served with the Cilantro-Yogurt Chutney and a side of sliced onions with a dressing of lemon juice, a pinch of red chili powder and salt.
- The classic Indian flatbread Naan is an ideal accompaniment to kebabs. In case you feel like making the naan yourself, there is a simple homemade naan recipe on Food Network. However, Naan is now found easily at every supermarket. Heat them on the grill for about a minute each before serving.
- In India, it’s unheard off to serve kebabs without a glass of chilled beer or a cocktail. I’m sure there’s something for everyone in these 15 fresh, simple cocktails for spring on Kitchn.com. My favorite is the Watermelon-Cucumber Refresher… and check out the Kachumber Cooler with delicious Indian-inspired flavors.
So kick up your heels…a glass of chilled beer or cocktail in one hand and a chicken drumstick kebab in the other.