Today’s offering? Chicken Tikka Masala, the national dish of the UK! Its origins are Indian, Punjabi (northwest India) to be precise. The word tikka refers to small pieces of meat in the Punjabi language. Masala means mixture. These pieces of chicken are traditionally cooked in a tandoor (outdoor clay) oven, and cooked in aromatic spices.
Although Chicken Tikka Masala as we know it today is a fairly modern invention (c. 1950’s), its humble origins date back roughly 5,000 years to the appearance of the tandoor oven in Indian culture. The origin of the word tandoor is said to come from various ancient languages such as Persian, Babylonian and Sanskrit.
Initially, chicken tikka masala was baked in large pieces in a tandoor oven. Along came emperor Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire. Legend has it that Babur was deathly afraid of choking on a chicken bone, so he instructed his chef to remove all bones from his chicken and cut it into small pieces. This is considered the first step on the evolution of the dish that we know and love today.
So, how did Chicken Tikka Masala come to be served the way it is today? Well, the story goes something like this… One evening at an Indian restaurant in England, a finicky diner was displeased with his chicken tikka masala. He found the dish too dry and demanded that a sauce be added to it to make it easier to swallow. This is not hard to imagine given the British affinity for dishes with gravies and sauces. The chef, annoyed or perhaps distraught, opened up a can of soup, added some spices and topped it with yogurt, Voila, Chicken Tikka Masala was born!
*Naan is a type of flat bread similar to pita.
- 2 lbs. chicken breast cut into 1" pieces
- 2 diced Roma tomatoes
- 1 medium onion sliced thin
- 2 Tbsp. garam masala
- 1 tsp. ginger
- 2 tsp. Kosher salt
- ½ tsp. chili powder
- ¼ tsp. allspice
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 tsp. red curry paste
- 2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
- ⅓ cup plain yogurt
- In a small bowl combine 1Tbsp. of the garam masala, ginger, salt, chili powder and allspice.
- In a glass measuring cup combine the vegetable stock, red curry paste, and tomato paste whisking to combine well.
- Place the chicken in the crock pot and add the vegetable stock mixture. Stir a couple of times.
- Add in the spice mixture, onions and tomatoes and mix well. Cover.
- Cook on low for about 3 hours.
- Mix the yogurt with the remaining tablespoon of garam masala. Add to the chicken. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. Add in the cilantro.
- Serve with basmati rice or naan.