Foodies around the world are honoring the memory of Ali Ahmed Aslam, the Pakistani-Scottish chef who is widely credited with inventing the beloved dish chicken tikka masala.
Aslam passed away this week at the age of 77.
Chicken tikka masala, a combination of tender pieces of chicken in a spiced tomato curry, has become a beloved dish among Americans, and in 2001 was declared a true national dish of the United Kingdom.
“The reason it’s very popular, is because it’s known all over the world,” said Nishcal Bhujel, part-owner of Chola Costal Indian Cuisine on East 58th Street.
Pakistani Chef Ali Ahmed Aslam, who passed away on Monday at the age of 77, was made famous for potentially inventing Chicken Tikka Masala in Scotland back in the 1970s, reviving a decade-long debate.
His legacy is remembered in the Nepalese-owned Chola’s restaurant in Glasgow, serving 150-200 Chicken Tikka Masalas daily. According to the Bhujel family, owners of Chola’s, the dish was tailor-made for western taste buds after a customer came into Aslam’s Shish Mahal restaurant complaining about the chicken.
“The chicken tikka was a bit dry, so he added the creamy tomato sauce,” Bhujel said.
After being steeped in a blend of spices and creamy tomato sauce for six hours, the chicken breast is skewered and grilled for around 10 minutes. The curry, which features fresh tomato sauce, buttered onions, and Indian spices, is then cooked on a stovetop.
Those familiar with the dish say the most vital component is its creaminess, achieved through a combination of heavy cream, cream cheese and sour cream. The end result is a delicacy that is said to be soft on the palate, with juicy chicken and a not-too-spicy flavor.
“It’s perfect,” said Chef Mateo Dominic, of Chola Costal Indian Cuisine. “That’s all you need.”