No ‘Indian’ chef seems to have produced any real evidence that he or she first invented the dish and it is commonly thought that its invention came about almost by accident. Journalist and restaurateur Iqbal Wahhab claims it was created when a Bangladeshi chef produced a dish of traditional Chicken Tikka only to be asked “where’s my gravy?”. The response was, supposedly, a can of cream of tomato soup and a few spices and the ‘masala’ element was born.
Top food writer Charles Campion refers to Chicken Tikka Masala as “a dish invented in London in the Seventies so that the ignorant could have gravy with their chicken tikka”.
Chicken Tikka Massala 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.
Robin Cook (1946-2005)
Several chefs have made claim to the invention of Chicken Tikka Masala but none with any evidence or witness support so the mystery will have to remain. The descendents of Sultan Ahmed Ansari, who owned the Taj Mahal in Glasgow claim he invented it in the 1950s but there is no other evidence of the dish at this early date or of the tandoor in Glasgow.
There are also claims that a Pakistani chef Ali Ahmed Aslam, proprietor of a Glasgow restaurant, invented it by improvising a sauce made from yogurt, cream and spices.
In July 2009 Pakistani-born 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 late British foreign secretary, Robin Cook, declared that: “Chicken Tikka Massala 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.”