British-Algerian writer & poet, aspiring journalist, history lover, art enthusiast…
Yes, I was taken by surprise too upon first hearing this. Chicken Tikka Masala, is in fact a British National Dish. It is of course, no secret that India was a long-term British Empire which inevitably brought with it a significant impact on the UK’s palate. During Queen Victoria’s reign, which was at the height of British Imperialism in India, all sorts of exotic, aromatic spices and originally Indian ingredients were imported into the UK. These ingredients were used in a variety of Anglo-Indian hybrid dishes. Curry, of course, was a staple favourite. Here is how the British national dish chicken tikka masala became what it is today.
So really, how did Tikka Masala become a traditional staple in British cuisine?
The story goes, that during the mid-twentieth century, (in 1971, to be exact) at a time when there was a noticeable influx of Indian and Pakistani immigrants to Britain, an Indian restaurant based in Glasgow called the Shish Mahal, which runs till this day, was serving all kinds of exotic, Indian dishes. The father of the current owner Asif was serving a chicken curry to one of the customers who was a reportedly exhausted bus driver that had just completed his daily shift.
To this bus driver’s dismay however, the chicken curry arrived “too dry” for his personal liking. So, he sent it back and demanded “something that isn’t as dry”. Upon its return to the kitchen, Asif’s father was ill with a stomach ulcer. He was sat down enjoying a warm, tomato soup. He asked his son Asif to mix in some of the tomato soup left in the can with the curry and to add in some more spices to give the almost disappointed customer a “different flavour”. Asif obeyed and did just that, and the new and improved chicken curry was sent back to the hungry bus driver’s table. He took his first bite and was instantly impressed!
This lead him to come back for a second day and a third. He brought his friends along to taste the delicious, newly born Chicken Tikka Masala! Of course, this accidental success then lead the proud restaurant owners to officially alter the chicken curry recipe in the menu. However this time, instead of using canned tomato soup, they added fresh tomatoes, cream and an exotic mixture of spices. Consequently, the dish became a number one bestseller across UK restaurants and has even travelled abroad – to India!
There you go! Chicken Tikka Masala was in fact born in the Scottish city of Glasgow in the UK, in the year 1971.
The British national dish chicken tikka masala is indeed a product of Anglo-Indian heritage and in the eyes of many, is considered to be a staple, national British dish. So, if ever this intriguing topic of conversation is brought up, you will know exactly what you’ll need to say. 😉
What do you think of the British national dish Chicken Tikka Masala? Let us know in the comment section below!
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British-Algerian writer & poet, aspiring journalist, history lover, art enthusiast & unicorn.