Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Pakistan-Born Chicken Tikka Masala Inventor Dies Aged 77

A chef from Glasgow who claimed to have invented the curry dish chicken tikka masala has died at the age of 77, a family member told AFP on Wednesday.

Ahmed Aslam Ali, who invented the dish by improvising a sauce made from a tin of tomato soup at his restaurant Shish Mahal in the 1970s, died on Monday morning, his nephew Andleeb Ahmed said.

Ali, originally from Punjab province in Pakistan, moved with his family to Glasgow as a young boy before opening Shish Mahal in Glasgow’s west end in 1964.


“He would eat lunch in his restaurant every day,” Ahmed said. “The restaurant was his life.” The chefs would make curry for him. “I am not sure if he often ate chicken tikka masala.” Ahmed said his uncle was a perfectionist and highly driven. “Last year he was unwell, and I went to see him in the hospital on Christmas Day,” Ahmed said. “His head was slumped down.” I stayed for 10 minutes. Before I left, he lifted his head and said, “You should be at work.”

Chicken Tikka Masala

In an interview with AFP in 2009, Ali said he came up with the recipe for chicken tikka masala after a customer complained that his chicken tikka was too dry. “Chicken tikka masala was invented in this restaurant; we used to make chicken tikka, and one day a customer said, “I’d take some sauce with that; this is a bit dry,” Ali said. “We thought we’d better cook the chicken with some sauce.” “So from here, we cooked chicken tikka with a sauce that contains yogurt, cream, and spices.”


The dish went on to become the most popular dish in British restaurants. Although it is difficult to prove definitively where the dish originated, it is generally regarded as a curry adapted to suit Western tastes. Ali said the chicken tikka masala is prepared according to customer taste.


“Usually, they don’t like hot curry; that’s why we cook it with yoghurt and cream,” he said. Supporters of the campaign to grant the dish protected status point to the fact that former foreign minister Robin Cook once described it as a crucial part of British culture. “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,” Cook said in a 2001 speech on British identity.

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