The Sad Death Of Ali Ahmed Aslam, Chicken Tikka Masala Innovator

While some chefs are celebrated for their intricate dishes and successful restaurants, only a handful of names are instantly recognizable. Still, other culinary innovators have changed food and how people eat it. One of those people, Ali Ahmed Aslam impacted the way many people enjoy Indian food with his version of chicken tikka masala. A December 19 Instagram announcement by his U.K. restaurant, Shish Mahal, announced that Aslam has died. The restaurant closed for 48 hours out of respect.

As reported by The Guardian, Aslam had recounted in an interview with AFP, "Chicken tikka masala was invented in this restaurant [Shish Mahal]. We used to make chicken tikka, and one day a customer said, 'I'd take some sauce with that, this is a bit dry.'" Adding a yogurt, cream, and spice sauce to the chicken became known as chicken tikka masala, and the dish made curry recipes more approachable to a variety of palates. 

Instead of a hot curry that could be too polarizing, the flavorful yet creamy dish tamed the heat, and many people went back to the restaurant time and again. Even though the dish isn't authentically a South Asian specialty, it became a popular U.K. offering. Although other restaurants have laid claim to the dish, Shish Mahal and Aslam are considered the chicken tikka masala innovators. While the bid to have the Glasgow location protected as the official birthplace of the recipe failed, many people sought out the famous dish and the affable man who invented it.

Chicken tikka masala fans react to Ali Ahmed Aslam's death

For those who want a warm, creamy, comforting Indian dish, chicken tikka masala, especially from Shish Mahal, is a delicious meal that always delivers the classic flavor. As fans learned that the dish's inventor, Ali Ahmed Aslam, had died, many people recalled what that menu item meant to them.

According to a December 21 Daily Record report, guests and fans were saddened to hear of Aslam's death. Martin Kelly commented on Twitter: "I am sure Mr. Ali was serving that Friday lunchtime in the summer of 1981 when I had my first proper curry with vegetable pakora, chicken dopiaza & chapatis. It was the start of my love-affair with curries. My deepest sympathies to all his family and friends." 

That connection to curry and other favorite food items was echoed by others, including Dorothy Rudge, who said to the Daily Record: "Remember queuing in Gibson Street to get after the pubs had shut, my introduction to curry, can still remember the decor and that unique smell. Journey safe sir." These examples are just a sampling of the people who fell in love with the bold flavors served at Shish Mahal. While Aslam is no longer serving his iconic chicken tikka masala in the restaurant with a broad smile, his flavorful legacy lives on in the dish that he invented more than five decades ago.