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Chicken Tikka Masala
Raj Dishes

(or Chicken Tika Marsala)

Tikka Chicken (baked small pieces of chicken which has been marinated in spices and yoghurt), in a very rich tomato gravy (masala) made using tomato purée or ketchup with cream or coconut cream and minced onion, slightly spiced with paprika. Served with rice or chips.

Chicken Tikka Masala, as now commonly served
Image: Unknown

In its home country Chicken Tikka is a dry dish of chargrilled chicken pieces and any accompanying masala sauce is served separately. How the two parts came to be combined in English curry-house practice is not clear. We can find record of 'Chicken Tikka.. with a delicate tandoori sauce' in the 'Kensington Post' of Friday 30 June 1972 (p33), but nothing from a restaurant in England by precisely the CTM name until advertisements by the Silisila Tandoori Restaurant in Reading as late as 1985.

Chicken Tikka, without the marsala - a dry dish
Image: www.tandoorihousedirect.co.uk

There is a persistent tale that a 1970's diner demanded gravy for his 'too dry' tandoori chicken and the cook responded by adding a tin of tomato soup, while it is also said that CTM originated with Bangladeshi cooks in Birmingham, though a similar spiced tomato gravy is known from the Punjab. Several restaurants, including Glasgow's Shish Mahal, and the Moti Mahal in New Delhi claim to be the source, but the first definitively recorded use of the name we can find was in the American John D. Shelhart's compendium 'Manhattan Menus' in 1975, which describes the dish as 'chicken kebab with chopped tomatoes and butter'.


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