Chef Ali Ahmed Aslam, who is credited with inventing the chicken tikka masala, has passed away at the age of 77. According to reports in the Guardian, his passing away was announced by his Shish Mahal restaurant in Glasgow. The eatery closed for 48 hours as a mark of respect.
Chef Aslam is one of Scotland’s most famous chefs and his restaurant, Shish Mahal, is in Glasgow’s west end. Chicken tikka masala has a huge fan following with natives outnumbering Indians in their love for this dish that is made with marinated chunks of chicken in a simmering tomato sauce gravy. It is a symbol that not only typifies its country of origin, India but also a mark of diversity and multicultural influences that colour the world today.
Chicken tikka masala is now a ‘true British national dish’, according to former Prime Minister Gordon Cook in his State of the Nation address. A dry Indian dish adapted with sauce ‘to satisfy the desire of British people to have their meat served in gravy’, he said.
Where did this dish originate?
The UK is claimed to have a national cuisine, chicken tikka masala, which has been around for close to 40 to 50 years. Some reports claim that it was created in Punjab in 1971, while others attribute Ali Ahmed Aslam, a chef from Glasgow, with creating it. A tandoor is used to cook the marinated boneless chicken pieces, which are then served with a creamy tomato sauce.
In the 1970s, a disgruntled client complained to Chef Aslam that his chicken was too dry and insisted on customising it with extra gravy. The chef then made the decision to add additional masala and tomato sauce and let it boil for a bit. The client returned to the table and kept returning since he like this new meal so much.
The origins of chicken tikka masala can be traced back to Kundan Lal Gujral who is said to have discovered ‘tandoor’ cooking or the slow cooking methods by charcoal in a clay oven. It could also have also originated from a famous recipe of another chef, Mrs. Balbir Singh whose book Indian Cookery published in 1961 contains her recipe similar to Chicken Tikka.
Though unsuccessful, an MP attempted to have Glasgow’s origins of chicken tikka masala recognised by Parliament in 2009 by introducing a resolution in the House of Commons. Chicken Tikka sneakily snuck into the culture and eating habits of British people who associated India with this meal, despite the fact that it never formally occurred.