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Chicken Tikka Masala: Where did it come from?

The British love a curry, there’s no doubting that. From takeaways to restaurants, Indian and Pakistani cuisine is one of the most popular choices for diners who decide to take a break from cooking.

Curry isn’t a new revelation either: whilst Pakistani and Indian cuisine is becoming much more traditional and customers are becoming more adventurous with the dishes they want to try, curry has been knocking around on these shores for decades.

One of the most popular curries sold all over the UK is the chicken tikka masala. Now, when you speak to anyone from India or Pakistan, the notion of chicken tikka masala is often lost on them. Although the dish is common here, it is much more difficult to find elsewhere. This is because chicken tikka masala originated a little closer to home than most curries.

The creation of chicken tikka masala

There are many stories of how chicken tikka masala came to be: Some claim that it came about in the 1970s when a chef in Glasgow, Scotland added a mild tomato cream sauce to the more traditional chicken tikka – boneless pieces of chicken marinated in yoghurt and spices and cooked on a skewer over a charcoal fire – in order to appease a fussy customer.

Some claim that it was a simple evolutionary adaptation to the milder British palette of a butter chicken dish, a dish popular across the north of India. Whilst most can agree on the location of its origins, the actual story of how chicken tikka masala came to be are still debated over in curry houses in every curry mile from Manchester to London.

Britain’s National Dish

Heralded as one of the first instances of ‘fusion food’ and a symbol of multi-cultural Britain, for a long time, chicken tikka masala was labelled as Britain’s favourite curry. Tonnes of the stuff was eaten every year, from the north of Scotland to the southern tip of England, people everywhere would head to their local Indian and Pakistani restaurants to devour platefuls of tikka masala.

Whilst it may have recently lost its title as Britain’s most preferred curry to the coconutty korma, chicken tikka masala still holds a special place in the hearts of British curry lovers, and is always available on the menu at Royal Nawaab’s restaurant in Manchester, where we are proud to serve one of Manchester’s best chicken tikka masalas.