Chicken tikka masala

Move over Full English Breakfast and pack your bags Sunday Roast because there’s a newer, saucier, spicier kid on the block: Chicken Tikka Masala.

Chicken tikka masala, or CTM as it’s affectionately known, is now believed to be the UK’s favourite dish, and while this may be hard to prove given the lack of numbers for sales of fried breakfasts and roast dinners, the data for CTM is certainly convincing:

Fact – Marks and Spencer sell a staggering 18 million tonnes of CTM every week.

Fact – Over 23 million portions of CTM are sold every year in the UK’s Indian restaurants.

Fact – A food producer in Middlesex produces 10 million tonnes of the stuff EVERY DAY!

Fact – Sales of CTM finance most schools and charities in the Bangladeshi city of Sylhet.

Fact – CTM accounts for around 15% of the half a million curries consumed daily in the UK.

So how did an Indian dish arguably become the UK’s favourite food?

The answer: It was created in the UK for UK people, so it’s not strictly Indian.

CTM is believed to have been specifically created to appeal to the UK palate by astute Indian restaurateurs. While no one has produced any concrete proff that they invented CTM, it is commonly thought that its creation came about by accident. Some sources claim it was created when a Bangladeshi chef produced a dish of traditional chicken tikka only to be asked 'Where's the gravy?' The response, so legend has it, was a can of cream of tomato soup and a few spices, and so the masala element of the dish was born. This story is reinforced by food writer Charles Campion's claim that CTM is 'a dish invented in London in the Seventies so that the ignorant could have gravy with their chicken tikka'.

A restaurant in Glasgow lays claim to the invention of CTM in 1950 but this is unlikely as the tandoor, the oven used to produce the chicken element, had only been introduced to the first Indian restaurant in 1948.

In fact the birth of CTM in can be seen in its original form of butter chicken when Lala Kundan first set up Moti Mahal in Delhi, 1947. Lala produced the first restaurant version of the tandoor and invented tandoori spice mix for tandoori chicken - ground coriander seeds, black pepper and mild red pepper. Called murg makhani in Hindi, butter chicken came about when the cooks at Moti Mahal recycled the leftover chicken juices in the marinade trays by adding butter and tomato. This sauce was then tossed around with the tandoor-cooked chicken pieces and butter chicken was born! The dish appealed to the diners of Dehli and was quickly lapped up by the rest of the world.

So there you have it Chicken tikka masala, a UK dish with its origins in India is a first choice on dinner plates from Northumbria to North Devon. So get lost liver and onions because CTM, a truly modern British icon, is here to stay.