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Tandoori Prawns

Steven Raichlen flew 18 hours from New York City to Delhi for one reason: to sample tandoori (Indian barbecue) on its own turf. Fortunately, India's most famous barbecue restaurant, Bkhara North West frontier, was located right in his hotel, the Welcomegroup Maurya Sheraton. One look at the exhibition kitchen, with its blazing tandoors and hammered copper walls hung with barbecue skewers, and he knew he'd struck pay dirt.

A tandoor is a cross between a barbecue pit and an oven. The waist-high, urn-shaped clay vessel holds a charcoal fire in the bottom. Seafood, meats, even vegetables are roasted on vertical spits over the coals, while breads are baked directly on the walls of the tandoor. The oven's unique shape produces searing heat and concentrated smoky flavors.

At Bukhara, the following recipe is made with huge, juicy prawns from the Bay of Bengal. In this country he has used large shrimp and lobster tails successfully. You'll need one special ingredient: chickpea flour, also known as besan, which is available at Indian markets and some health-food stores. In a pinch you could substitute whole wheat flour.

Plus: More Seafood Recipes and Tips

  • Servings: 4

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  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour or whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimps, shelled and deveined
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


  1. In a mortar, pound the garlic, ginger and salt to a paste; alternatively, puree in a mini-processor. Add the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the yogurt. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Whisk in the remaining yogurt along with the egg, chickpea flour, cayenne, turmeric, cumin, garam masala and white pepper. Stir in the shrimp and marinate for 2 hours.
  2. Light a grill. Thread the shrimp onto skewers. To suspend the shrimp 2 to 3 inches above the grill, place rocks or bunched-up foil on either end of the grill. When the fire is hot, rest the skewers on the rocks and cover the grill. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the marinade has formed a firm, crusty coating on the bottom of the shrimp. Baste the shrimp with the butter and turn the skewers. Cover and grill the shrimp until just cooked through, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer the shrimp to plates and serve at once, with lemon wedges.

Suggested Pairing

The exotic flavors (banana, clove and bubble gum) and clean finish of bottle-fermented German hefe-weizen, or wheat beers, suit the sweet prawns, Hacker-Pschorr Weisse is an example for a classic producer.

Contributed By Published September 1997

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