Ali Ahmed Aslam, ‘Chicken Tikka Masala’ Inventor Dies At 77

Ali Ahmed Aslam, the inventor of 'Chicken Tikka Masala', dies at 77

Aslam with his signature dish in 2009 (Image credit: AFP)

Glasgow chef Ali Ahmed Aslam, credited with inventing ‘chicken tikka masala’, has died aged 77.

Ali Ahmed Aslam’s death was announced by his Glasgow restaurant Shish Mahal, which closed for 48 hours as a mark of respect, The Guardian reported. The restaurant announced: “Hello Shish Snobs…Mr Ali passed away this morning…We are all absolutely devastated and heartbroken.”

He invented the dish by improvising a sauce made from a tin of tomato soup at his restaurant Shish Mahal in the 1970s, he died on Monday morning, his nephew Andleeb Ahmed told AFP.

“He had lunch at his restaurant every day,” Ahmed said.

“The restaurant was his life. The chefs made curry for him. I’m not sure if he ate chicken tikka masala very often.”

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Ahmed said his uncle was a perfectionist and highly motivated.

“Last year he wasn’t well and I went to see him in hospital on Christmas Day,” Ahmed said.

“His head was down. I stayed for 10 minutes. Before he left, he looked up and said you should be at work.”

In an interview with AFP in 2009, Ali said he came up with the chicken tikka masala recipe after a customer complained that his chicken tikka was too dry.

“Chicken tikka masala was invented in this restaurant, I used to make chicken tikka, and one day a customer said, ‘I’d like some sauce with this, this is a little dry,'” Ali said.

“We thought it would be better to cook the chicken in a little sauce. So from there, we cooked chicken tikka in a sauce that contains yogurt, cream and spices.”

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The dish became the most popular dish in British restaurants.

Although it is difficult to definitively prove where the dish originated, it is generally considered a curry adapted to Western tastes.

Ali said that chicken tikka masala is prepared according to the customer’s taste.

“Normally they don’t take curry hot, that’s why we cook it with yogurt and cream”, he said.

Supporters of the campaign to grant the dish protected status point to the fact that former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook once described it as a crucial part of British culture.

“Chicken tikka masala is now a true British national dish, not just because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts outside influences,” Cook said in a 2001 speech on British identity.

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

He said he wanted the plate to be a gift to Glasgow, to give something back to his adopted city.

In 2009, he unsuccessfully campaigned for the dish to gain ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ status from the European Union, along with champagne, Parma ham and Greek feta cheese.

Mohammad Sarwar MP tabled a motion in the House of Commons in 2009 asking for EU protection.

Ali leaves behind a wife, three sons and two daughters.

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