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Busting the TANDOORI CHICKEN myth

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Desi Writer
Desi Writer
A writer by passion and student by action. Hate to keep quiet.

Undoubtedly, every non-veg Indian is a die-hard fan of Tandoori Chicken. We take pride in calling ourselves Indians when the topic of discussion is Tandoori Chicken. But it is a common belief, or rather the ‘so-called’ that Tandoori Chicken is a Mughlai Dish. But is it really a dish Mughals can take credit for? Is it really the dish the Bawarchis of Shahi Bawarchi Khana could take credit for? Let’s see. Here is a point by point rebuttal of the most popular beliefs that force us to believe that Tandoori Chicken is a Mughal Dish.


Historians in gastronomy have over the years established the fact that Tandoor originated in Central Asia or the Middle East. But there are many archaeological pieces of evidence that show that similar cooking was existent in India and not brought by the Mughals. A recent archaeological survey brought forth the fact that clay and mud ovens resembling Tandoor are numerous at Harappa and Lothal, two major sites of Indus Valley Civilisation. They have also found charred chicken bones, suggesting that the ovens were used to prepare non-veg delicacies as well. Now, one can as well debate that was it Indus Valley Civilisation from where the Middle East got the influence of Tandoor? As Indus Valley Civilization vanished, so did the facts that Tandoor originated in the valleys of Indus. So did Humayun, actually return us what was once gifted by our ancestors to his?


On a close survey of the recipe of Tandoori chicken, one can deduce many astonishing facts. We know that Mughals descended from Genghis Khan, a Mongol and Timur Lane, a Central Asian. Both these geographical regions are famous for many things but their spice. It is not a hidden fact that all countries on the world traded spices from India. So it is very doubtful that a recipe with use of such intricate spicing could have come via the Mughals. Another possibility is that the recipe was created in India, by the Mughals. But this can be easily denied as there are no mentions of this blockbuster recipe in any Mughal texts or literature. Further, the use of chilli for colour in Tandoori Chicken is a great example of traditional Indian cooking.


The most accepted modern version of the Tandoori Chicken recipe belongs to Peshawar. In the late 1940s, this dish made its first worldwide public appearance. The dish is said to have originated in Moti Mahal restaurant, in modern-day Peshawar. It was created by Kundan Lal Jaggi, Thakur Dass and Kundan Lal Gujral, all Punjabi Hindus. This dish reached the US around the 1960s. This popular story also has no mention of Mughals. The reason they get their undeserving credit is due to the word Tandoor, for the oven in which it was cooked, was believed to have been brought by Mughals.

Further, it is very evident that Tandoors and similar ovens, both in the West and the Middle East are predominantly used for baking stuff, like bread, pizzas etc. Two most important inferences thus are that Tandoori Chicken can’t be Mughlai because of the use of extravagant Indian spices, and its recent origin from Peshawar. This has been fashioned by Indian liberals, who have always been attempting to whitewashing the image of the Mughal rule in India, sometimes using cuisine and sometimes architecture. It is time we stop blindly following myths and try digging the truth, as the distortionists have been dismantling the truth and it is our responsibility to know the truth.

So, the next time you order Tandoori Chicken, don’t forget to thank the Harappans, while you devour into the beauty that is- The Tandoori Chicken!

P.S.: This article, however, does not rubbish the claim that Mughlai dishes like Biriyani, Kofta, etc. was brought by Mughals.

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Desi Writer
Desi Writer
A writer by passion and student by action. Hate to keep quiet.
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