Al-Watan Halal Restaurant: Love Me Tandoor

Tandoori Chicken

      The Tandoor, a clay oven used for cooking in India, Pakistan and parts of the Middle East, is an impressive piece of masonry. Temperatures inside the oven can reach up to 900° Fahrenheit, much hotter than the famous wood-fired Sicilian pizza ovens (those are around 700°). When a tandoor oven is hot enough, skewers of meat are lowered in to cook, developing a crispy and chewy skin while sealing in the juices of the meat. Dough is then plastered to the edges of the oven as the meat cooks, giving birth to another tandoor favorite, Naan, a thick chewy bread that can be stuffed or topped with a variety of ingredients. Suffice it to say the art of the tandoor is quite a feat, not unlike trying to cook your food from the flaming exhaust of a jet engine. In the mastery of such of high-temperature roasting there are few places in LA that rival Hawthorne’s Al-Watan Halal Restaurant.
     The restaurant has become so popular among local Pakistani’s that in the adjacent strip mall a variety of “Joanie loves Chachi”-esque spin-offs, with names likes Al-Watan Grocery and Al-Watan Record Store have popped up to nudge in on business. Don’t be fooled though, Al-Watan is a building you don’t want to miss. Sure, its mirror lined dining room feels like an outdated dance hall that hastily had a few tables thrown in, but you don’t come here for the decor. Neither do the other Pakistani families that surround you, in fact, everyone is here for one thing, the Tandoori Chicken.
     A meal at Al-Watan begins with a complimentary salad of lettuce and cucumbers, served alongside a squeeze bottle filled with a sauce composed of cilantro, yogurt and spices. Get to know this sauce well, because you will soon find yourself dipping everything in it, not only for its taste, but also for its ability to counteract the sweat-inducing heat of most of the dishes. Most people here opt for a sweet lassi, a tart yogurt drink that helps combat the spice. Soon, the Tandoori meats arrive from the kitchen, served so sizzling hot they make Chili’s “skillets” look like they came out an Easy Bake Oven. The meat is amazingly flavorful, namely the Tandoori Chicken, unique in its deep brick-red color due to its overnight soak in yogurt and spices. The Sekh Kabobs, skewers of ground lamb mixed with herbs and onions, look like sausages made by a blind kid, but are exceptionally moist, tender and perfectly cooked. The Chicken Tikka Malsla, a traditional Indian dish, is delicious here as well. The chicken in this dish is cooked in the tandoori first, meaning when it is added to the creamy orange curry it brings with its distinct smoky cumin flavor.
     Every few minutes a new sizzling dish appears out of the kitchen, most of them being the Mixed Tandoori plate, a large stack of roasted meats that is obscenely cheap for its size, or the Nehari curry, a popular dish made from roasted beef marrow and topped with a nest of cilantro, chiles and ginger. Order some freshly singed Naan bread, a lassi, and even some Kheer (cardamom scented rice pudding) to accompany your tandoori or curry and you’ll eat like royalty for just over $10 a person. Plus, depending on your outlook, the rich smoky smell that lingers in your clothes may be a bonus as well.

13619 Inglewood Ave
Hawthorne, CA 90250
(310) 644-6395

Tandoor on Foodista

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One thought on “Al-Watan Halal Restaurant: Love Me Tandoor

  1. Alisa says:

    wonderful post.Reminds me of the first time I experienced tandoor cooking.I came across your site from the foodieblogroll and I’d love to guide Foodista readers to your site. I hope you could add this Tandoor widget at the end of this post so we could add you in our list of food bloggers who blogged about Tandoor, thanks!

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