Inventive chefAli Ahmed Aslam

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Aslam outside his restaurant in the 1970s, with people lined up to eat. (Shish Mahal)

Born in Pakistan, his family moved when he was still a young teen to Glasgow, Scotland. There in 1959, his father opened what is considered the first “true” Indian restaurant in Glasgow, the Green Gates on Bank Street. By 1964 — at age 19 — Aslam opened his own restaurant, the Shish Mahal, also in Glasgow. In 1977, a patron complained about his chicken tikka meal. “He said, ‘I’d take some sauce with that, this is a bit dry.’” Aslam sought to improve it: “So from here we cooked chicken tikka with the sauce that contains yogurt, cream, spices.” He called it chicken tikka masala, and it has since become Britain’s favorite curry dish.

Aslam in his restaurant, 2015. (Shish Mahal)

While others have claimed they did it first, none of the claims have held up, and Aslam, who was known by patrons as “Mr. Ali”, is widely credited for creating the creamy version of chicken tikka. Lonely Planet’s “The World’s Best Spicy Food” declares Shish Mahal is the “best place on earth” to eat chicken tikka masala. Aslam died December 19 from septic shock. He was 77.

From This is True for 25 December 2022