Working in kitchen always inspired me ever since I entered the hotel, during my summer training at a Taj west end Bangalore. Before I could really understand what is a real cooking, in an environment like hotel, it is the big equipment which really fascinated me as a kitchen trainee, commercial boilers, tilting pans, combi ovens, long chillers and freezers. Apart from these equipment there is an equipment which always gave me an indigenous feel and which always pinched me to investigate its roots, origin, how it is built what are the basic equipment associated with it and what is the best way to use it .
“Equipment on which I can talk about and relate with my food “
I hope most of you have understood the equipment I am talking about, it is our own Indian clay tandoor. If ever you get a chance to work in the Indian Kitchen in tandoor section, and yes with an old chef – who will never ever allow you to come close and work on it. Reason, maybe the amount of respect they have for their tandoor or the safety reasons. Similar situation I had experienced as a kitchen trainee, I used to wait for the night time where the shift ends and my time begins, you open the tandoor lid put your hands in feel the intensity of heat & the answers comes yes I can do it. you peeps inside the chiller get some nan dough and the action begins and you have your friends in stewarding to judge the quality of your bread that is your first examination which you have to clear before you go for real stage show. That is a cooking like a beginner in an Indian kitchen. Here I would like to share some basic but important information on Tandoor.
WHAT IS TANDOOR?
The origin of the word ‘tandoor’ has two theories the first is related to the Sanskrit word kandu and the second theory derives from the colloquial pushtu or Persian, from the word tataandar where tata means hot and andar means inside. Tandoor works on the same principle as of oven i.e. dry heat and the mode of heat transfer is through radiation. Tandoor is the only equipment, which envelops the food completely in heat. The basic raw material for the construction of tandoor is good quality clay, munj (type of grass), water and natural binders.
METHODS OF MAKING TANDOOR
1) Modeling – In this the tandoor is made into sub – parts, which are joined together. This method is easy to do and has longer shelf life.
2) Coiling – In this method long slabs are rolled and they are coiled upon themselves until the required height is attained .This method is not advisable for big and commercial tandoors.
CONSTRUCTION OF TANDOOR
Stage I – clay bars are beaten with wood planks to break the dry lumps, then it is allowed to pass through a wire mesh or a sieve.
Water is added to a sieved dust along with natural binder’s munj, it is than kneaded well before shaping.
Stage II – once the clay is ready, slabs of 2-3 cm thickness are made on a clay dusted floor, clay dust is sieved on the surface, and then they are rolled lengthwise from both the ends like cylinder. These cylinders are then unrolled, both the ends are joined together like a circle. After the base circle is made, upper most part is punched at intervals to create notches, then it is left to dry. So that it can hold the weight of a next circle.
Stage III – When the clay ring is dried to correct hardness another ring is placed. Subsequently the sections are then added until the required height is reached.
Stage IV– the lip of the tandoor is made with moulding clay. Ensuring the edges have round and smooth curves so that lid can rest flat at the opening.
A standard commercial tandoor is made into four to five parts. each part requires adequate sunlight and air to dry. Therefore a basic structure of a good clay tandoor is made in five to six days. Once the basic structure is made then the walls of tandoor are beaten from inside with the help of a wooden mallet and a pad, this is for strengthening the walls of the tandoor.
INSTALLATION OF TANDOOR
Once the tandoor is made it is installed in an enclosed area, which can either be with cemented walls or a fabricated metallic box. Tandoor is placed in the center, gaps between the tandoor and walls are filled with glass wool and sand. Both the materials act as good insulators and hold the position of tandoor firmly. An opening is made at the base, this is for circulation of air and oxygen hence helps to regulate the temp during cooking.
Before the tandoor is fired, tandoor is seasoned with a mixture of spinach, jaggery, salt and mustard oil.
Once the tandoor is seasoned, it is lit on a slow fire for 16-18 hrs so that clay walls are baked to red.
Seasoning helps to smoothen inner walls and cleans the dust and grit on the surface.
Wood coal is used as a source of fuel as it gives a nice smoky flavor to the food. Coke is never used for burning tandoor as it has more of sulphur content, which is not good for health.
EQUIPMENT’S USED ON TANDOOR
Skewers – Made of wrought iron or stainless steel
Cushion – prepared from bundle of clothes or coconut husk
Ring – placed on the lip of tandoor to rest skewers while cooking