Chicken tikka masala, New Indian or fusion?
Chicken tikka masala is quite likely one of the most popular Indian dishes the world. The irony of chicken tikka masala, better known as “CTM,” is that what is often enjoyed in restaurants as a traditional Indian dish has very little to do with authentic Indian cuisine. It is closer to “Britain’s true national dish.”
It was former British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, who proclaimed chicken tikka masala as the new national dish of Great Britain, in an attempt to set an example of British multiculturalism. The chicken tikka masala Mr. Cook was referring to was in actual fact the gravy-based dish invented in Britain.
Chicken tikka, on the other hand, is indeed an authentic Indian dish, prepared by marinating small, bite-sized bits of chicken in yogurt and spices, which are then grilled over a charcoal fire, giving it that lovely, unmistakable smoky flavor.
Those who belittle chicken tikka masala for being unauthentic and untraditional India will want to read Lizzie Collingham’s here. Collingham researches the true origins of several traditional Indian dishes, such as biryani, korma and dhanasak, and discovers surprising answers in the Middle East and Persia.
Chicken tikka masala might very well have been a dish adapted by the British upon their return from British India, and today enjoys incomparable popularity. It might also have been the ingenious invention of an Indian chef to satisfy his guest. As an Indian, I admit I am delighted that it was the desire to experience a flavor of India that made this dish so popular.
It’s easy to see why this dish might be mistaken for a typical Indian dish. There certainly are a lot of flavors that come straight from a typical Indian kitchen. I love the smoky aromas the chicken gets after being grilled on the charcoal, so I always get my husband to throw the chicken on the barbecue. The oven is a great alternative, but that smoky flavor goes missing. The rich sauce also makes it distinctive. The incredible orange color is appealing to the eye, and the thick creamy texture is just waiting for warm pieces of naan to be dunked and scooped up.
Even as an Indian, I admit to loving chicken tikka masala and prepare it often at home. Over the years, I have developed my own spice blend and flavor combination for my own “custom” chicken tikka masala. Indian fusion food for everyone to indulge in!
Printable version of recipe here
Marinating the Chicken
3-4 boneless chicken breasts, skins removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
250g thick natural, plain yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
Also: Skewers, if using wooden skewers completely submerge them in water for approx. 30 minutes. This will hinder them from catching fire while grilling.
250g canned cocktail tomatoes, drained, or fresh cherry tomatoes
250g heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 red chilies, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika powder
1 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter
Handful of coriander leaves/cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper
- Mix all of the ingredients for marinade in a large bowl. Thoroughly mix until the chicken is nicely coated. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, either prepare your charcoal grill or heat up the grill function of your oven to high.
- Thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers, discarding the marinade. Grill the chicken evenly on all sides, until juices run clear – approx. 5-6 minutes.
- To prepare the gravy, heat a large skillet to medium and melt the ghee/clarified butter. Sauté the garlic and chopped chilies until fragrant. Sprinkle the ground cumin, paprika powder and a pinch of salt. Sauté for a further minute or two until the mixture turns into a paste-like texture.
- Pour in the canned tomatoes, scraping the bottom of the skillet to deglaze it and to release any bits stuck to the pan.
- Simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes on low heat until the sauces begins to thicken, then add the grilled chicken pieces and cream.
- Simmer for a further 10 minutes, thickening the sauce further and to heat the chicken and cream through.
- Serve sprinkled with fresh chopped coriander leaves and with steamed Basmati rice, fresh naans and pickles.