Diner Asked for Some Sauce, and a Signature Dish Was Born

Scotland's Ali Ahmed Aslam, credited with creating chicken tikka masala, dies at 77
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2022 1:40 PM CST
Chicken Tikka Masala Creator Dies at 77
Chicken tikka masala.   (Getty/Ravsky)

The restaurateur widely credited with creating the dish chicken tikka masala has died at age 77 in Glasgow, Scotland. Ali Ahmed Aslam, a native of Pakistan who immigrated to Glasgow as a teen, is generally considered the inventor of the dish described by CNN as "chunks of spiced chicken surrounded by a rich tomato and yogurt-based sauce." Whether that origin story is true is a matter of dispute. As the New York Times puts it: "Much like Cartesian geometry, chicken tikka masala was most likely not one person's invention, but rather a case of simultaneous discovery—a delicious inevitability in so many restaurant kitchens, advanced by shifting forces of immigration and taste in postwar Britain."

Both stories note that Aslam gave an interview to AFP in 2009 and explained how he came up with the dish in the 1970s at his Shish Mahal restaurant in Glasgow. "We used to make chicken tikka, and one day a customer said, 'I'd take some sauce with that, this is a bit dry,'" recalled Aslam. "We thought we'd better cook the chicken with some sauce. So from here we cooked chicken tikka with the sauce that contains yogurt, cream, spices." The dish took off in popularity from there, with CNN noting that it even finished above tried-and-true fish and chips in a 2001 list of the UK's favorite dishes. (Check out other notable obituaries.)

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