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Jan 30, 2010 10:24 AM

Origins of Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken [split from UK/Ireland board]

This was split from a thread in the UK/Ireland board: - The Chowhound Team


Helen b, I think you mean "Chicken Tikka Masala" which was supposedly invented in Glasgow, which at one time was the UK's most popular dish.

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  1. not really. rather than using charred strips of tandoori chicken to make butter chicken, indian restaurants started using chicken tikka. for instance, the nataraj hotels kabab korner in mumbai (now defunct) used to make butter chicken with chicken tikka pieces in the '70's.

    the usual way it got here is that the clueless bangla operated indian curry house operators tried to mimic the look of the dish and produced their version of it.

    where does this nonsense 'invented in glasgow' come from?

    8 Replies
    1. re: howler

      Howler, it is here in black and white, written down in an widely read research journal. How can you doubt it?:

      But seriously, the provenance of a lot of a dish is always going to be speculative. In this case Chicken Tikka Masala as we know it on the British high street probably was invented by a Bangladeshi in Glasgow. But he no doubt based it on a more authentic and complex dish from India. After all a true CTM is just chicken tikka covered with the stock tomato based curry sauce, the one used to make all the other 45 curries on the menu that have a tomato "masala" base.

      1. re: PhilD

        i didn't explain myself very well.

        butter chicken was invented at moti mahal to use the slightly charred boneless chicken pieces at the bottom of the tandoor. there's only so much scraps, so the nearest equivalent - chicken tikka kababs - started being used instead. to help the punter, butter chicken with chicken tikka pieces was called chicken tikka masala. in india.

        there's no speculation here. for example, every curry house here in london i've seen has a dhansaak dish on the menu. thats a venerable parsi dish - but whats served in a london curry house has as much similarity to the real thing as chalk does to cheese. does that mean that the provenance of dhansaak is speculative? c'mon now.

        1. re: howler

          Well I was trying to be humorous.

          The problem with naming arguments is that they rely on oral histories and anthropological research and supposition. As a result there are few dishes where the provenance of the name is one hundred percent certain.

          Many, many people believe the British dish called Chicken Tikka Masala was devised in the UK for the UK palete. That style of dish became a standard, one on the UK's most popular dishes, and probably UK supermarkets biggest selling ready meals. Obviously there is a dish in India that is similar but the British version is different and has taken on a life in it's own right. It is this individual life that makes it appropriate and correct to say this version was invented in Britain. I some respects this is similar to "Chop Suey" a dish that was invented in America in the 1800's but clearly has roots in authentic Chinese cuisine.

          I am afraid the Dhansaak example is really a straw man argument.

        2. re: PhilD

          The Shish Mahal restaurant in Glasgow claims the "invention" according to the Daily Record. Linked, I suspect, to the bid for Protected Designation of Origin for chicken tikka massala.

          Whether true or not is completely irrelevent.Once something is so fixed in the culture, as the Scottish creation of CTM, contrary arguments are pointless.

            1. re: howler

              So from this article we get two choices, a Moghal dish passed down through generations (although "...they liked roasted form of chickens with spices..." makes me suspicious whether it is the same dish) or we have a Punjabi dish that is 40 to 50 years old. I wonder how close these are to the beloved British dish CTM? Without doing a direct taste comparison between The Shish Mahal, Delji's Karim Hotel, Rahul Verma's street stall, and the best of the British high street it is tricky to know whether they are the same dishes.

              I thought the "Protected Designation of Origin" claim was nonsense, but that doesn't mean the British CTM hasn't evolved into a unique dish. OK it has origins in India (I have said that all along) but our Glaswegian chef(s) no doubt simplified it and tweaked it for the British palate creating the ubiquitous CTM we all know (and avoid) today. For me that is enough to think of CTM as a British dish, yes an Indian ancestry, but now morphed into a British dish.

              1. re: PhilD

                as are other Anglo Indian dishes such as Kedgeree and Mullgatawny.

                1. re: PhilD

                  I had included this link in one of the posts that is no longer here: