Ali Ahmed Aslam, a Glasgow chef credited with inventing ‘chicken tikka masala’, has died at the age of 77.
Ali Ahmed Aslam’s death was announced by his Glasgow restaurant, Shish Mahal, which was closed for 48 hours as a mark of respect. Watchman. The restaurant announced: “Hi, Sheesh Snopes… Mr. Ali passed away this morning… We are all so devastated and broken.”
His nephew Andlip Ahmed told AFP that he invented the dish by improvising a sauce made from a tomato soup tin at his restaurant, Shish Mahal, in the 1970s. He died on Monday morning.
“He used to eat lunch in his restaurant every day,” Ahmed said.
“The restaurant was his life. The chefs would make curries for him. I’m not sure if he ate chicken tikka masala often.”
Ahmed said that his uncle was a perfectionist and very impulsive.
“Last year he was ill and I went to see him at the hospital on Christmas Day,” Ahmed said.
“He fell head down. I stayed for about 10 minutes. Before I left, he raised his head and said you should be at work.”
In an interview with AFP in 2009, Ali said he came up with the chicken tikka masala recipe after a customer complained that the chicken tikka was too dry.
“Chicken tikka masala was invented in this restaurant, and we were making chicken tikka, and one day a customer said, ‘I’d take some sauce with that, that’s a bit dry,'” Ali said.
“We thought it would be best to cook the chicken with some sauce. Hence, we cooked chicken tikka with a sauce that contained yogurt, cream and spices.”
The dish has become one of the most popular dishes in British restaurants.
Although it is difficult to definitively establish the dish’s origin, it is generally regarded as a curry adapted to Western tastes.
Ali said that the chicken tikka masala is prepared according to the customer’s taste.
“Usually they don’t eat hot curry, which is why we cook it with yogurt and cream,” he said.
Supporters of the protectionist campaign 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 only because it is the most popular, but because it is an excellent example of the way Britain absorbs and adapts to outside influences,” Cook said in a 2001 speech on British identity.
Ali, originally from the Punjab province of Pakistan, moved with his family to Glasgow as a young boy before opening the 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 campaigned unsuccessfully for the dish to be given Protected Designation of Origin status by the European Union, along with the likes of Champagne, Parma ham and Greek feta cheese.
MP Muhammad Sarwar introduced a motion in the House of Commons in 2009 calling for protection of the European Union.
Ali leaves a wife, three sons and two daughters.
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