When you think of England, your mind probably conjures images of the quinitisentally rainy streets of London, the Union Jack flag and roast dinners in a cosy English countryside pub, but how about a Chicken Tikka Masala? 

Despite the stereotypes which we have learnt to associate with the UK over time, modern day life in England encompasses so much more than that, with our colourful and vibrant multicultural society meaning that “English Culture” is forever changing and being influenced by new cultures and new traditions. This mixture of traditional British culture and cultures from all around the world, are what make our country such an interesting place to live.

“Chicken tikka masala is now a true British national dish, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences. Chicken tikka is an Indian dish. The masala sauce was added to satisfy the desire of British people to have their meat served in gravy.” – Robin Cook

Other English National Dishes

Every country has a national dish, which is based on history and culinary heritage which are reflective of the landscape of the country. Most of these dishes are hearty meals which use as many locally grown ingredients as possible. These national dishes are an integral part of culture and tourism for countries around the world. 

England’s national dish has changed many times over the years, with the top contenders being fish and chips, roast dinner and bangers and mash, if there is one thing for sure, it’s that we love meat and we love a bit of gravy! So how did it come about that the Chicken Tikka Masala has topped the list?

Indian Influence on British Cooking

Over 1.4 Million people of Indian heritage now live in the UK, making them the single largest visible ethnic minority population in the country. So it comes as no surprise that the beautiful Indian culture and flavours have made a massive impact on how we enjoy food and cooking in the UK. 

The first Indian curry house in London opened its doors in 1808 and was forced to close three years later due to lack of business. In a modern day Britain, it is clear that our taste buds have come a long way since 1808, with many of the UK opting for an Indian for their weekend takeaway, Indian cookbook sales on the rise and most mainstream UK supermarkets stocking various Indian cooking ingredients for home-chefs to recreate their favourite curry dishes from the comfort of their homes. One thing for sure, the UK population now loves a good curry.  

Chicken Tikka Masala – Dish History

Chicken Tikka Masala is a tomato based curry, but its history is a complex one, and there are several origin stories as to exactly how the dish came about. Some believe that the dish was created in Punjab over 40 years ago. Others believe that the dish was actually created in India to suit the more delicate palettes of Brits living there during the years of the British Empire (1858-1957). 

The final, and most widely known story is that the Chicken Tikka Masala was created in the UK by Bangladeshi chefs in the mid 60s as more Indian chefs were migrating to the UK and setting up restaurants. One specific anecdote tells the story of a bus driver ordering a chicken curry in a Glaswegian Indian restaurant on one rainy Scottish evening. After sending the curry back for being too dry, the chef decided to add a tin of cream of tomato soup with some more spices and sent the experimental dish back out to the bus driver. He absolutely LOVED it and proceeded to tell all his friends about it, the restaurant kept the new dish on the menu and thus the Chicken Tikka Masala was born… 

Although the final origin story is slightly far-fetched, all stories have one thing in common and that is that the Chicken Tikka Masala is a dish which has been developed with the British palette in mind, and has been reluctantly adopted by traditional Indian chefs and restaurants across the country to suit the British consumer.

Where to get the Best Chicken Tikka Masala in London?

Keen to give our Chicken Tikka Masala a try? Chicken pieces marinated in yoghurt, barbecued over charcoal and cooked inside a balti of garlic & ginger. We recommend pairing this great British dish with our infamous garlic naan bread!  Is your mouth watering as much as ours?

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