The Great Chicken Tikka Masala Fraud

I mentioned before that Chicken Tikka Masala was the first Indian dish I had ever tasted, so imagine my dismay at opening up “From Curries to Kebabs” and finding out that the origins of this dish are in… the UK!  Not only non-Indian, but Western, to boot.  The shame.

Then my copy of “Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors” came in the mail (Royal Mail) and I opened the first chapter named “Chicken Tikka Masala” and read the following:

“No sooner had the then Foreign Minister Robin Cook announced chicken tikka masala as the new national dish of Great Britain in 2001 than food critics were condemning it as a British invention.  Chicken tikka masala, they sneered, was not a shining example of British multiculturalism but a demonstration of the British facility for reducing all foreign foods to their most unappetising and inedible form.  Rather than the inspired invention of an enterprising Indian chef, this offensive dish was dismissed as the result of an ignorant customer’s complaint that his chicken tikka was too dry.  When the chef whipped together a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, some cream and a few spices to provide a gravy for the offending chicken, he produced a mongrel dish of which, to their shame, Britons now eat at least eighteen tonnes a week.  Chicken tikka masala’s most heinous crime, according to its critics, is not so much that it tastes horried but that it is not authentic.”

Wow.  Campbell’s Tomato Soup??  Way to put a damper on my making the dish.  The BBC even reported that this British dish is gaining popularity in India despite it’s not being an Indian dish at all.

I decided to push through, however, since it’s so damn delicious. I followed Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe to a tee. And in the end… I didn’t have Chicken Tikka Masala. I had a chunky curry, not smooth, filled with tomatoes and onions.  I couldn’t reconcile this with the Chicken Tikka Masala I’d had before, I just couldn’t.  I was about to give up altogether when I saw that my “Indian Cooking” cookbook, previously maligned, had a recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala as well. I already had the chicken tikka made, so I attempted this sauce instead.  It called for a can of chunked tomatoes and heavy cream, so right off the bat it sounded more accurate.  I made it within minutes, added the chicken and voila!  It may not be “desi” (or red, since I left out the paprika), but it’s damn good.

I also got the chapatis recipe from “Indian Cooking,” and those were great, so perhaps I was too quick to judge!

Recipes from the web:

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