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Friday, 20 April, 2001, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Chicken tikka masala: Spice and easy does it

chicken tikka masala, n, • mild curry dish of chicken in a tomato-based sauce, cooked tandoori style (in a charcoal-fired oven). Optional hefty dose of tartrazine lends luminescent orange glow.

TRANSLATION: chicken tikka, a traditional Indian dish, means pieces of tandoori chicken; masala is a blend of spices. Known in the curry trade as CTM.

SYNONYMOUS WITH: breakdown in traditional British values and rise of multi-cultural Britain (CTM is most popular dish in UK according to Food Service Intelligence). In an attack on alleged Tory xenophobia, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has hailed chicken tikka masala "Britain's true national dish".

PROVENANCE: hazy; somewhere in the UK. Various stories abound. Said to have originated between 1950s and 1970s and birthplace is sometimes cited as a Glasgow curry house. Legend has it one obstinate diner demanded gravy on tandoori chicken. A bemused chef responded by adding tin of Campbell's tomato soup and pinch of spices, unwittingly partaking in early example of fusion cookery.

SIMILAR TO: other exotic dishes/culinary styles that belie their assumed origins. eg: chop suey (origin: San Francisco); deep-pan pizza (Chicago) and balti (Birmingham).

CONSTITUTES: wide range of variable ingredients. A 1998 survey by Real Curry Restaurant Guide of 48 different CTMs found only common ingredient was chicken.

INCIDENCE: ubiquitous today, albeit in various mutations. Sainsbury's sell 1.6 million CTM meals every year and stocks 16 CTM-related products including chicken tikka masala pasta sauce. Other derivations include CTM crisps, CTM pizzas, CTM kievs and Marks and Spencer's famous CTM sandwiches (18 tonnes devoured every week).

CONTESTED: by new-wave of Indian restaurants which banish flock wallpaper and pints of Carlsberg in favour of clean lines and yoghurt lassis.

EXPORTABLE: in supreme example of "coals-to-Newcastle"-style international trade, several British firms now sell CTM to India.

COMPARE WITH: England's 1998 football World Cup unofficial anthem Vindaloo by Fat Les, chosen because of its characteristic but multi-racial overtone

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19 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Tories reject Cook race claim
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