Wish dish: What is chicken tikka masala and where to find the best


Chicken tikka masala, UK


First thing to note: our favourite curry is not from India. We will get to its history soon, though for now just know we are not talking about a dish from the sub-continent. What we're talking about is a creamy, not-too-spicy, Anglo-friendly fusion, made with chunks of chicken tikka, which is boneless chicken marinated in spices and yoghurt and roasted on skewers in a tandoor oven, served in a thick tomato and cream based sauce. Throw in some basmati rice, maybe a cucumber raita, possibly some lime pickle, maybe even a thick, fluffy naan, and you have yourself every Anglo-Saxon's favourite non-Indian Indian dish.


Here's an interesting thought: everyone's favourite non-Indian Indian dish is very likely to have been invented by someone from Bangladesh. Theories abound for the true origins of chicken tikka masala, though what is generally agreed upon is that it emerged in the United Kingdom in the 1960s or early 70s. It was either invented – depending on who you believe, by a Bangladeshi chef in Glasgow; by several cooks of Bangladeshi origin in England; by an Indian chef in London who used a can of Campbell's tomato soup … or it's actually a traditional though little-known Punjabi dish that a migrant chef popularised in the UK. The dish is also remarkably similar to "murgh makhani", or butter chicken, which emerged in the 1950s in Delhi, which could also be its origin. Tikka masala is now widely considered one of the UK's national dishes, up there with fish and chips and bangers and mash.


Walk into a pub and ask 20 English people where the country's best tikka masala is and you'll get 20 different answers. Punjab, in Covent Garden (Punjab.co.uk), tends to be an enduring favourite in London. In Glasgow, meanwhile – where the dish could also have originated – try Mother India (motherindia.co.uk), a cracking family eatery that's been around since 1990.


As with the UK, there is no shortage of places to grab a chicken tikka masala in Australia. In Sydney, try Masala Theory in Surry Hills (masalatheory.com), or Ginger Indian Restaurant in Harris Park (gingerindian.com.au). In Melbourne, try Punjabi Curry Café in Collingwood (punjabicurrycafe.com.au).


Though our "Eat There" section today is dedicated to the UK, don't forget to go to the true source for this style of cuisine, and try what was perhaps the original chicken tikka masala: the murgh makhani, or butter chicken, at Moti Mahal in Delhi (motimahal.in), where the dish was invented in the 1950s.