Ali Ahmed Aslam, self-proclaimed inventor of chicken tikka masala, is dead at 77 A Pakistani immigrant in Glasgow claimed he invented the beloved takeout dish with some spices and a can of tomato soup. His death has revived a long debate about who really can lay claim to the food.

Who created chicken tikka masala? The death of a curry king is reviving a debate

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Glasgow, 1972 - it's about 11 p.m., and a bus driver has come to the Shish Mahal restaurant for a late dinner. But the chicken's kind of dry.


ALI AHMED ASLAM: Some customer says, I think we need some sauce with that, and this is a bit dry. And instead of giving them separate sauce, we thought it would be better we cook their chicken tikka with some different sauce.


Restaurateur Ali Ahmed Aslam died earlier this week. But in 2009, he told the news agency AFP that he soaked some spices in Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup and cooked the chicken in that. And in this moment, a Pakistani immigrant to Scotland invented what's now one of the world's most popular Indian dishes - chicken tikka masala.

KELLY: Or at least that's one common story. Others say that the curry was invented in South Asia. A popular Indian restaurant chain says it was serving chicken tikka masala to Indian heads of state as early as 1947.

LEENA TRIVEDI-GRENIER: Do we know for sure that Kundan Lal Gujral was the first inventor of it? No. But we know that he laid claim to it and opened his restaurant, Moti Mahal, more than 20 years before this Pakistani-Scottish gentleman.

SUMMERS: Leena Trivedi-Grenier is a food writer who researched the origins of chicken tikka masala in 2017.

TRIVEDI-GRENIER: It's kind of like who invented chicken noodle soup? It's a dish that could have easily been invented by any number of people.

SUMMERS: Ultimately, she says, it was probably a case of simultaneous invention, of several chefs roasting chicken tikka in a tandoor oven, then further cooking it in a rich curry.

KELLY: Ali Ahmed Aslam was apparently among them. His nephew Andleeb Ahmed says his uncle loved his work, that he still often personally brought customers their food, though when it came to his own palate...

ANDLEEB AHMED: When he had guests in the restaurant, he would have things like chicken tikka masala. But normally, the chefs would make a very traditional curry for him, and he'd have it at lunch every day.

KELLY: Ali Ahmed Aslam was 77 years old. His restaurant and his most famous dish live on.

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