Ali Ahmed Aslam, the inventor of Chicken Tikka Masala, has died at the age of 77
Glasgow chef Ali Ahmed Aslam, credited with inventing ‘chicken tikka masala’, has died aged 77.
The death of Ali Ahmed Aslam was announced by his restaurant Sheesh Mahal in Glasgow, which closed for 48 hours as a mark of respect, it said The Guardian. The venue announced: “Hey 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 tin of tomato soup at his Shish Mahal restaurant in the 1970s, he died on Monday morning, his nephew Andlib Ahmed told AFP.
“He would have lunch at his restaurant every day,” Ahmed said.
“The restaurant was his life. The chefs made curries for him. I’m not sure if he often eats chicken tikka masala.”
Ahmed said his uncle was a perfectionist and highly driven.
“Last year he was unwell and I went to see him in hospital at Christmas,” Ahmed said.
“His head was down. I stayed for 10 minutes. Before I left, he looked up and said you should be at work.”
In a 2009 interview with AFP, 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 were making chicken tikka and one day a customer said, ‘I’d like some gravy with that, it’s a bit dry,'” Ali said.
“We decided it was better to cook the chicken with some sauce. So from there we cooked chicken tikka with a sauce that contains yogurt, cream and spices.”
The dish has become the most popular dish in British restaurants.
Although it is difficult to definitively prove where the dish originated, it is generally considered to be a curry adapted to suit Western tastes.
Ali said that the chicken tikka masala is prepared according to the customer’s taste.
“They usually don’t take curry hot, so we make it with yogurt and cream,” he said.
Supporters of the campaign to give the dish protected status point to the fact that former foreign secretary Robin Cook once described it as an important part of British culture.
“Chicken tikka masala is now a true British national dish, not just because it’s the most popular, but because it’s 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 with his family to Glasgow as a small boy before opening Sheesh Mahal in Glasgow’s west end in 1964.
He said he wanted the dish to be a gift to Glasgow, to give something back to his adopted city.
In 2009, he unsuccessfully campaigned for the dish to gain Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union, alongside the likes of Champagne, Parma ham and Greek feta cheese.
MP Mohammad Sarwar tabled a motion in the House of Commons in 2009 calling for EU protection.
Ali leaves behind a wife, three sons and two daughters.
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