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Ali Ahmed Aslam, Glasgow chef credited with inventing chicken tikka masala, dies at 77

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    Ali Ahmed Aslam, the purported inventor of chicken tikka masala, has died at the age of 77.

    The Twitter account for Aslam’s award-winning restaurant, Shish Mahal, announced his death on Monday.

    “The restaurant was his life,” said Aslam’s nephew, Andleeb Ahmed. “The chefs would make curry for him. I am not sure if he often ate chicken tikka masala.”

    The Pakistan-born, Glasgow-based Punjabi chef claimed to have invented the iconic dish after improvising the sauce from a can of tomato soup after a customer complained that their chicken tikka was too dry.

    “Chicken tikka masala was invented in this restaurant. We used to make chicken tikka, and one day a customer said, ‘I’d take some sauce with that, this is a bit dry,’” Aslam said in a 2009 interview with AFP. “We thought we’d better cook the chicken with some sauce. So from here we cooked chicken tikka with the sauce that contains yogurt, cream, spices.”

    Although the origins of the dish are contested, chicken tikka masala exploded in popularity in Britain for its mild taste, which better suited Western palates. 

    “Usually they don’t take hot curry, that’s why we cook it with yogurt and cream,” Aslam said at the time.

    In 2009, Aslam campaigned to have chicken tikka masala recognized as an official dish of Glasgow and granted “Protected Designation of Origin” status by the European Union but was unsuccessful, in part due to the number of U.K. establishments making similar claims.

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