Chicken tikka masala
|Place of origin||Uncertain; South Asia or Scotland|
|Main ingredients||Chicken, yogurt, cream, tomato, onion, garlic, ginger, chili pepper, coconut|
|Variations||Lamb, Fish or Paneer Tikka Masala|
|Cookbook: Chicken tikka masala Media: Chicken tikka masala|
Chicken tikka masala is a dish of roasted chunks of chicken tikka in a spicy sauce. The sauce is usually creamy, spiced and orange-coloured. It was almost certainly invented in Britain and is among the country's most popular dishes, leading a government minister, Robin Cook, to claim in 1991 that it was a national dish.
Chicken tikka masala is chicken tikka, chunks of chicken marinated in spices and yogurt, that is then baked in a tandoor oven, and served in a masala (spice mix) sauce. A tomato and coriander sauce is common, but there is no standard recipe for chicken tikka masala; a survey found that of 48 different recipes, the only common ingredient was chicken. The sauce usually includes tomatoes (frequently as purée), cream, coconut cream and various spices. The sauce or chicken pieces (or both) are coloured orange using foodstuffs such as turmeric powder, paprika powder or tomato purée, or food dye. Other tikka masala dishes replace chicken with lamb, fish or paneer.
The origin of the dish is disputed. The British explanation is that it originated in an Indian restaurant in the United Kingdom, likely from the British Bangladeshi community which ran most Indian restaurants in the UK. Rahul Verma, a Delhi expert on street food, offered a different explanation, speculating in 2009 that the dish may have originated—probably by accident with subsequent improvisations—in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh during the last 50 years.
A specific version of the British explanation recounts how a chef, Ali Ahmed Aslam, proprietor of the Shish Mahal restaurant in the west end of Glasgow, invented chicken tikka masala by improvising a sauce made from yogurt, cream and spices. His son Asif Ali told the story of its 1971 invention to the BBC's Hairy Bikers TV cookery programme:
On a typical dark, wet Glasgow night a bus driver coming off shift came in and ordered a chicken curry. He sent it back to the waiter saying it's dry. At the time Dad had an ulcer and was enjoying a plate of tomato soup. So he said why not put some tomato soup into the curry with some spices. They sent it back to the table and the bus driver absolutely loved it. He and his friends came back again and again and we put it on the menu.
In July 2009 the British MP Mohammad Sarwar tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons asking that Parliament support a campaign for Glasgow to be given European Union protected geographical status for chicken tikka masala. The motion was not chosen for debate, nor did Sarwar speak on this subject in Parliament.
The historians of ethnic food Peter and Colleen Grove discuss various origin-claims of chicken tikka masala, concluding that the dish "was most certainly invented in Britain, probably by a Bangaldeshi chef". They suggest that "the shape of things to come may have been a recipe for Shahi Chicken Masala in Mrs Balbir Singh’s Indian Cookery published in 1961".
In 2001, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook declared that "Chicken Tikka Masala is now a true British national dish, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences." He went on to explain that "Chicken Tikka is an Indian dish. The Masala sauce was added to satisfy the desire of British people to have their meat served in gravy." The claim that Chicken Tikka Masala is a British "National dish," however met with both acclamation and skeptical opposition.
Chicken tikka masala is served in restaurants around the world, including Indian restaurants in Britain and North America. A 2012 survey of 2,000 people in Britain claimed that it is that country's second most popular foreign dish to cook, after Chinese stir fry.
- Balti, a South Asian dish
- Chicken curry, a spiced chicken dish
- Butter chicken, a mild curry dish of South Asian origin
- List of chicken dishes
- Mughlai cuisine
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