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History of Chicken Tikka Masala, an Indian Curry Dish at The Colonial British Indian Cuisine

Did you know? The word “tikka” means small pieces of meat in Punjabi. And “masala” means mixture in the Punjabi language. These small pieces of chicken are marinated, traditionally and baked. In this article we look at the origin of Chicken Tikka Masala Indian curry and learn about its popularity in Western-worlds.

Want to try Sydney's favourite Chicken Tikka Masala Indian Curry? > Book your table here at The Colonial Indian restaurants!


Chicken tikka masala is a national favorite food of India. There are different theories regarding its origin. it is also considered a historical dish of the subcontinent. It is roughly dated 5,000 years ago and traditionally cooked in the tandoor (oven) in Indian culture.

Originally, chicken tikka masala was cooked in large pieces of meat. It was tried in the Mongolian empire. As it is said that Babur was frightened of choking on bones. He asked his chef to cook boneless chicken and cut it into small pieces. It is said that it was the origin of chicken tikka masala in the subcontinent. It evolved with time.

British Bangladeshi Chef

In history, one school of thought says that it was invented by Ali Ahmed Aslam who was British Bangladeshi chef, the administrator of the Shish Mahal restaurant in Glasgow.

The story tells the story of its invention by Ali Ahmed. A person who had an ulcer and on a liquid diet. He was unable to taste the dry curry and other solid stuff. Instead of dry curry he put some tomato and sprinkled some spices. The customer went full of joy after enjoying the meal. He often visited the place with his friends to taste and enjoy the beauty of the new dish.

Gradually the dish became famous in Britain and it became a beloved British dish. It is a combination of chicken, creamy sauce, and soft spices.

While the second school of thought claims it is an Indian dish deeply rooted in Punjab. It had a history of more than 5000 years ago from the Mongolian empire. It is said that Babur was terrified from the choking of bones. So he asked his cook to bake a boneless dish for him. So chicken tikka masala originated from this boneless dish.

It must be an accidental discovery by adding some yogurt, tomato soup in chicken tikka however chicken tikka masala is an Indian dish. The sauces are added according to taste to satisfy the desire of British people.

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Boneless chunks of chicken marinated in yogurt and different sources are used with different sauces. The sauce usually contains tomatoes as puree, coconut cream, cream, and a masala spice mix. To make the dish colored, some chefs used turmeric powder. Chicken tikka masala has similarities with chicken butter.

Politics and Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken tikka masala also has a political history. Chicken Tikka masala became a political dish in 2001. In 2001, it was declared “true British national dish” by Government Minister Robin Cook. Many people agreed because it is one of the favorite foods in the UK.

In July 2009, a British Member of Parliament, Mohammad Sarwar, requested the support of Glasgow in a campaign. This campaign aimed to establish geographical status for chicken tikka masala. Later on, the parliament did not bother to take it seriously. And the mystery of where from it truly originated still unsolved. We may call it the most disputed dish of all time.

Transition period

Due to its popularity, many restaurants have started experimenting with multiple alternatives like seafood, beef, in their tikka masalas. People change the original recipe or they add up some ingredients according to their taste. They include popular vegetables also.

Now it is available in ready-made tikka masala sauces from all big supermarkets. If you are a foodie you can buy from anywhere to cheer up your mood. The companies also mention the ingredients they used. They also share the procedure of how to easily cook at home. Many chefs will give you slightly different versions to cook it through their books and channels.

Are you thinking of trying it at home? It’s very simple to start with chicken tikka (boneless), marinate the chicken. The marinating will keep the chicken moisturized. It should be marinated for 30 minutes to 48 hours. The mixture of spices, mostly people used garam masala and yogurt that goes into chicken inside will make it tastier before the baking.

During the marinade, people use different powders according to their taste like Chilli powder is very popular, some people use fresh green chilies instead, which is more colorful. Paprika and cloves are also used.

People serve it in different ways, some use it with roti or naan bread. Some will prefer to serve it with warm rice to enjoy the delicious dish. Many companies sell ready-made frozen Tikka masala. You have to follow a step by step recipe to make the dish. This is an ideal dish for health-conscious people. Whichever method you will use to prepare the dish will give you a magical iconic dish to please you.


Is chicken tikka only famous in Britain or India? The answer is No. It is served in restaurants globally. It ranked among the top favorite foods in Uk. It is not only cooked in India and Britain it is also favorite among the Neighbors of India like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka.

Final take-off

So, wherever the very first taste of chicken tikka masala was tasted. It may have been the time of 1950s and 1970s, somewhere in India or Britain, but today, the meal is celebrated globally. All Indian restaurants prepare it as their feature dish.

Slash the chicken into bite-sized chunks. Then you have to stir in the lemon juice and salt. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes. Then you got to stir the marinade ingredients together. After that, add them to the bowl. Then after, you have to stir in order to coat, cover and chill the ingredients. Then you basically have to bring to room temperature before you start cooking.

Irrespective of its controversial and mysterious origins – Chicken Tikka Masala has its special place in the kingdom of food. Currently, there are more than 50 versions of chicken tikka masala. This is one of my top favorite foods which I will recommend to anyone who wants Indian food.

Don’t Confuse

Many people get confused between butter chicken and chicken tikka masala. Because they look alike. Besides, the variations among regions make it tougher to tell the difference among these dishes. Chicken butter is fully rich in butter.

Now make delicious and easy chicken tikka at home. And enjoy the charismatic dish.

Want to try Sydney's favourite Chicken Tikka Masala Indian Curry? > Book your table here at The Colonial Indian restaurants!