Chicken Tikka Masala is one of the most popular Indian dishes around the world. With its tantalizing blend of aromatic spices, tender chicken, and creamy tomato sauce, this iconic curry has become a favorite at Indian restaurants across the globe.
But what is the story behind Chicken Tikka Masala? How did this dish become so beloved worldwide? Let’s uncover the origins and meteoric rise of this mouthwatering meal.
A Brief History of Chicken Tikka Masala
The origins of Chicken Tikka Masala are shrouded in mystery and debate. Some trace it back to India, while others believe it was invented in Britain.
According to one legend, the dish was created by a Pakistani chef in the 1970s at an Indian restaurant in Glasgow, Scotland. When a customer complained that their chicken tikka was too dry, the chef improvised by adding a tomato and cream sauce – creating an early version of what we now know as Chicken Tikka Masala.
However, recipes for chicken in a spiced tomato gravy appeared in Indian cookbooks as early as the 1800s. The traditional dish of butter chicken is also quite similar.
So it’s likely that Chicken Tikka Masala evolved from multiple existing Indian dishes, rather than being invented entirely from scratch. The name itself comes from the Hindi words for chicken cubes (“tikka”) and spices (“masala”).
Regardless of its exact origins, once Chicken Tikka Masala arrived on the scene, it took Britain by storm. By the 1980s it was one of the country’s most popular restaurant dishes. Some have even called it Britain’s “true national dish.”
The Sensational Taste of Chicken Tikka Masala
So what makes Chicken Tikka Masala so irresistibly delicious? It’s all in the harmonious blend of flavors and textures:
- Tender, juicy chicken – Boneless chicken thighs are marinated in yogurt and spices, then grilled or baked until cooked through and lightly charred. This ensures maximum tenderness and flavor.
- Aromatic masala sauce – Onions and tomato paste form the base of the sauce, which is spiced with the heady Indian flavors of cumin, coriander, paprika, and garlic. The sauce simmers until thick, robust, and fragrant.
- Velvety, creamy finish – Heavy cream or coconut milk is stirred in at the end, lending the sauce a luxurious, silky texture. The creaminess perfectly balances the spices.
- Rice complements the curry – Chicken Tikka Masala is usually served over fragrant basmati rice, which soaks up the flavorful sauce. The rice provides the perfect blank canvas for the aromatic curry.
With its interplay of textures, spices, and flavors, it’s easy to see why Chicken Tikka Masala has gained international fame. Every bite is an explosion of taste and aroma!
The Global Popularity of Chicken Tikka Masala
From its origins in India and Britain, Chicken Tikka Masala has now become a beloved culinary export worldwide.
In North America, it’s the best-selling Indian dish at restaurants. Chicken Tikka Masala even went to space in 2006 aboard a NASA space shuttle!
Across Europe, you can find the curry on menus from Helsinki to Madrid. Poland, Germany, and France can’t get enough of its signature flavor profile.
Australia and New Zealand have fully embraced Chicken Tikka Masala as a staple takeout meal. It’s especially popular as an alternative to Thai curries and stir fries.
From Jamaica to Hong Kong, locals have put their own spin on the classic recipe while staying true to the core Indian spices and aromatic tomato gravy.
No matter where you travel, you’ll discover that the taste for Chicken Tikka Masala has spread far beyond India’s borders. Its versatility and universal appeal make it one of the world’s most popular curries.
How to Make Authentic Chicken Tikka Masala at Home
Want to recreate the aromatic flavors of Chicken Tikka Masala at home? Follow this easy recipe:
- 28 oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1.5 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp minced ginger
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1.5 cups tomato puree
- 1.5 cups heavy cream
- Fresh cilantro (optional garnish)
- Marinate the chicken: Mix the chicken, yogurt, garlic, ginger and all spices. Refrigerate 30 mins up to 24 hours.
- Bake the chicken: Preheat oven to 400°F. Thread chicken onto skewers and bake 15-20 mins until cooked through.
- Cook the sauce: Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook 5 mins until softened.
- Add tomato paste and cook 1-2 mins until fragrant.
- Add tomato puree and cream. Simmer 10-15 mins until thickened.
- Add chicken and finish: Add cooked chicken to the sauce. Cook 5-10 mins until chicken is heated through.
- Serve over rice: Serve Chicken Tikka Masala over basmati rice and garnish with cilantro. Enjoy!
With this easy homemade recipe, you can impress your family and friends with an authentic tasting chicken tikka masala. Master the masala sauce, and you can adapt it to other proteins like paneer or vegetables.
The Lasting Appeal of an Iconic Indian Curry
Over the past few decades, Chicken Tikka Masala has achieved global fame and popularity few dishes can match. With its irresistible aromatic flavors, easy adaptability, and broad appeal, this curry sensation has earned its place as one of the world’s most beloved Indian recipes.
So the next time you crave a taste of rich, savory Indian cuisine, be sure to try the iconic Chicken Tikka Masala. Its tantalizing symphony of tastes and textures will transport you to flavor paradise with every bite. Let this world-famous curry weave its special magic!
Try the iconic Chicken Tikka Masala – you won’t regret it! If you’re looking for more must-try dishes from around the world, check out this list of 10 Iconic Local Dishes.