Ali Ahmed Aslam, inventor of ‘Chicken Tikka Masala’, dies at 77

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

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

A Glasgow chef, Ali Ahmed Aslam, credited with inventing ‘chicken tikka masala’, has died at the age of 77.

Ali Ahmed Aslam’s death was announced by his restaurant Shish Mahal in Glasgow, which closed for 48 hours out of respect, it reported. The Guardian. 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 can of tomato soup at his restaurant Shish Mahal in the 1970s, he died on Monday morning, his nephew Andleeb Ahmed told AFP.

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

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

Ahmed said that his uncle was a perfectionist and highly motivated.

“Last year he was not feeling well and I went to see him at the hospital on Christmas day,” Ahmed said.

“My head was drooping. I stayed for 10 minutes. Before I left, he raised his head 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, we used to make chicken tikka, and one day a customer said, ‘I’d have some sauce with that, this is a bit dry,'” Ali said.

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

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 tailored to Western tastes.

Ali said that the chicken tikka masala is prepared as per customer’s taste.

“Normally they don’t have hot curry, so 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.

Ali, originally from Pakistan’s Punjab province, moved 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 European Union to grant the dish “Protected Designation of Origin” status, along with champagne, Parma ham and Greek feta.

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

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

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