Ali Ahmed Aslam, a restauranteur in Scotland believed to have invented the popular dish chicken tikka masala, has died. He was 77.
Aslam owned Shish Mahal restaurant in Glasgow, which announced his death on Facebook, saying the restaurant would be closed for 48 hours.
Aslam, known locally as Mr. Ali, was born in Pakistan and moved to Glasgow as a young boy. He opened his restaurant in Glasgow’s West End neighborhood in 1964, where he claims he invented the iconic chicken tikka masala dish in the 1970s, according to BBC News.
Aslam says he created the dish when a customer complained the chicken tikka was too dry. So, Aslam created a sauce using Campbell’s condensed tomato soup, which he had in stock because he ate it while recovering from a stomach ulcer, according to Shish Mahal’s website.
The dish has since become vastly popular in Western countries and while there is no way of proving Aslam is the first person to ever make it, there was once a campaign to grant Glasgow legal recognition as the home of chicken tikka masala.
The campaign was supported by Mohammed Sarwar, the MP for Glasgow Central, who introduced a motion to recognize the dish in the House of Commons in 2009, according to BBC News. In the end, Glasgow did not receive an EU Protected Designation of Origin and was not recognized as the official home to the dish.
Chicken tikka masala has been called “Britain’s most popular dish” by many publications. In a 2001 speech about multiculturalism, U.K. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook called chicken tikka masala “a true British national dish,” saying it was not only the most popular dish but also “a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences.”
Shish Mahal is often praised in the press as the best place to get the dish and Aslam was called “the West End’s Indian dining legend” in a profile by local journalist Roy Beers. Fans of the Shish Mahal, which the restaurant affectionally calls “Shish Snobs,” flooded the post about Aslam’s passing with messages of support.
Aslam is survived by his wife, Kasloom Akhtar, and five children.