Chicken Tikka

Chicken Tikka (Yogurt-Marinated Baked Chicken)

This is a really classic dish and even though it ideally requires that the chicken be marinated a day ahead of cooking, it is very easy to prepare. Sometimes people like to bake or grill the chicken pieces on skewers but I have given a simpler and equally effective method here. It will come out juicy and tender on the inside and nicely crispy on the outside, with a lovely aromatic flavor.

It can be eaten as an appetizer or a snack by itself (I like to squeeze a little lime juice on it when eating) but also with any bread or rice with Raita. Do try to make it as it never fails to impress!

Ingredients

  •  12 fluid ounces (350 milliliters) yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) oil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika (optional, mainly for a nice redder color)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ginger paste
  • 2 teaspoons garlic paste
  • 28 ounces (800 grams) of boneless chicken thighs (preferable) or breasts, cut into roughly 1 inch (2.5 centimeter) cubes
  • 3 tablespoons (45 milliliters) additional oil

Method

  • Normal yogurt has too much moisture in it, so the first thing we need to do is remove some water from it. Otherwise, water collects in a pool in the baking dish and boils, steaming everything and keeping the surface of the chicken pieces from becoming crisp. For this, you will need a clean muslin cloth, a cheesecloth, or just a plain dish drying cloth (not the towel type). Unfold the cloth and place it in a large bowl in a single layer. Then place the yogurt carefully into the center of the bowl on top of the cloth. Now take two diagonally opposite corners of the cloth and tie them in a knot close to the yogurt but without squeezing it. Then take the other two ends of the cloth and tie them in a double knot over the first knot. Now hang this cloth from your kitchen faucet and let it slowly drain by dripping into the sink for at least 30 minutes (or even a couple of hours). Afterward, just lightly squeeze the hanging yogurt from the top down, which should get a bit more water out, and then place the cloth back in the bowl and undo all the knots. You should have something like a ball of yogurt solids sitting there. Drop the yogurt into the bowl by turning the cloth upside down into it and remove any yogurt on the cloth with a spoon and place in the bowl. Wash the cloth.
  • Add all the ingredients to the bowl except the chicken and the last 3 tablespoons (45 milliliters) of oil, and mix well. Just to be extra clear: note that oil is listed twice in the ingredients and this step uses only the part listed first.
  • Now add the chicken pieces and mix well, and then cover and place in your refrigerator for as long as possible up to 24 hours. Even if in a rush, do try to marinate like this for a minimum of two hours.
  • Preheat the oven at 390º F (200º C) for 15 minutes.
  • Line a large baking pan or tray with aluminum foil and then put 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) of the additional oil in the center of it, and save the rest. Use a small piece of a paper towel to spread the oil all over the foil.
  • Place the chicken pieces on the foil as close as possible but so they are not touching.
  • Place the chicken in the oven and let it bake for 15 minutes.
  • Take the chicken out and baste it with the leftover oil using a basting brush (or if you don't have a basting brush, just dab the oil on the chicken pieces with one end of a rolled up paper towel). Then turn all the chicken pieces over and baste the other side with oil. Place the chicken back in the oven.
  • Bake for 10 minutes and then see if the chicken is done. It should look a little browned with crispy edges, but not too charred (see the picture above). If you can't tell if it is done, cut a piece with a fork and taste it! If it is not done, repeat this step until it is.
  • DONE.

This recipe makes four servings. Garnish with a tablespoon of fresh green coriander leaves and a lime cut into four wedges if you like.