Chicken tikka masala is a dish of chunks of roasted marinated chicken (chicken tikka) in a spiced curry sauce. The sauce is usually creamy and orange-coloured. There are multiple claims to its place of origin, including the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent or Glasgow in Scotland. It is among the United Kingdom's most popular dishes, leading a government minister, Robin Cook, to claim in 2001 that it was "a true British 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 mixture) sauce. A tomato and coriander sauce is common, but no recipe for chicken tikka masala is standard; 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 spices. The sauce and chicken pieces may be coloured orange using foodstuffs such as turmeric, paprika, tomato purée or with food dye. The dish shares some similarity with Butter chicken, both in the method of creation and appearance.
Other tikka masala dishes replace chicken with lamb, fish, or paneer.
The origin of the dish is disputed.
Rahul Verma, a food critic who writes for The Hindu, said he first tasted the dish in 1971 and that its origins were in the Punjab. He said "It's basically a Punjabi dish not more than 40-50 years old and must be an accidental discovery which has had periodical improvisations".
Another explanation is that it originated in an Indian restaurant in Glasgow, Scotland, but probably from the British Bangladeshi community which ran most Indian restaurants in the United Kingdom.
A specific version of the British explanation recounts how a Pakistani 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. In 2013, his son Asif Ali told the story of its invention in 1971 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, then British Member of Parliament 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.
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 Bangladeshi 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".
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. 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."
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 the country's second-most popular foreign dish to cook, after Chinese stir fry.
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