Shish Mahal chicken tikka masala’
A campaign to grant Glasgow legal recognition as the home of chicken tikka masala has been launched with the backing of the city council and Mohammed Sarwar, the Labour MP.
Campaigners are seeking to ensure restaurants that serve the dish, claimed to be the most popular in Britain, must refer to Glasgow as the city of its origin. The bid has been launched by owners of the Shish Mahal, in the city’s west end where, it is claimed, the tikka masala was first created in the early 1970s.
It has the support of Mohammed Sarwar, the MP for Glasgow Central, who is to table a motion in the House of Commons calling for chicken tikka masala to have the same legal protection as other regionally designated foods such as Arbroath smokies and Melton Mowbray pork pies.
The dish is said to have been created by Ali Ahmed Aslam, the owner of the restaurant, following a complaint from a diner about the dryness of his chicken. The chef hastily prepared a sauce using various spices soaked in a tin of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup which he had been eating while recovering from a stomach ulcer.
Birmingham Council, meanwhile, is seeking legal protection for the balti which, it claims, originated in the city in the 1970s but Asif Ali, 36, manager of the Shish Mahal, said Glasgow’s bid was more likely to succeed.
“We could call it the ‘Glasgow chicken tikka masala’ or even ‘Shish Mahal chicken tikka masala’. We consider ourselves to be Glaswegians first and Scottish second so we are proud to have invented it here,” he said. “It is rightfully a Glaswegian thing and we have a far better claim to it than Birmingham has to the balti.
“Balti is like saying our national dish is a burger, it doesn’t mean anything, it’s such an inconsequential dish. It’s never really taken off in Glasgow because our palates are a bit more refined here.”
Food producers can apply, with the support of their government, to the European Union for Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), to protect foodstuffs that are produced, processed and prepared in a particular geographical area using recognised know-how.
British dishes that have won such status include the Arbroath Smokie, Cornish clotted cream and Welsh lamb.
“The chicken tikka masala is a favourite dish of mine and I am very proud that it was created in Glasgow at the Shish Mahal,” said Sarwar, Britain’s first muslim MP. “The restaurant is an old, established name in Glasgow. I will be putting down a motion in the House of Commons in support.”
A spokesman for the council said it would also lend its support to making tikka masala an official Glasgow dish. “Curry has a long history in Glasgow and the origins of chicken tikka masala are now clearly part of that legend,” he said. “Glasgow has been declared Curry Capital of Britain three times in recent years and the quality of the food available is unsurpassed. Anything that highlights the quality of the curry experience in Glasgow has to be welcomed.”