Ali Ahmed Aslam, 77, Credited With Inventing Chicken Tikka Masala, Dies

Mr. Aslam was born on April 1, 1945, into a family of farmers in a small village near Lahore. As a teenager, newly arrived to Glasgow in 1959, he took a job with his uncle in the clothing business during the day and cut onions at a local restaurant at night.

Mr. Aslam was ambitious, and he soon opened his own place in the city’s West End. He installed just a few tables and a brilliantly hot well of a tandoor oven, which he learned to man in a sweaty process of trial and error. He brought his parents over from Pakistan; his mother, Saira Bibi, helped run the kitchen, and his father, Noor Mohammed, took care of the dining room.

In 1969, Mr. Aslam married Kalsoom Akhtar, who came from the same village in Pakistan. In Glasgow they raised five children. In addition to his son Asif, his survivors include his wife; their other children, Shaista Ali-Sattar, Rashaid Ali, Omar Ali and Samiya Ali; his brother, Nasim Ahmed; his sisters Bashiran Bibi and Naziran Tariq Ali; and 13 grandchildren.

Chicken tikka masala boomed in the curry houses of 1970s Britain. Soon it was more than just a dish you could order off the menu, or buy packaged at the supermarket; it was a powerful political symbol.

Mr. Aslam in an undated photo. When he reopened Shish Mahal after some renovations in 1979, he caused a stir by offering dishes at their original 1964 prices.Credit…via Ali family

In reality, Mr. Cook’s vision of multicultural Britain often grated against reports of daily life in Britain — and in curry houses, where after local pubs closed it was common for racist, drunken diners to file in, demanding the South Asian foods they’d grown to love while also abusing the workers who came from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

As the curry house established itself as a British institution, more flourished around Shish Mahal. In 1979, when Mr. Aslam renovated the place, he reopened with a clever gimmick: all of the original 1964 prices, for a limited time. This led to long, frenzied lines down the block. In photos taken around this time, Mr. Aslam is handsome and beaming, in a tuxedo jacket and bow tie, with the thick, floppy hair of a movie star.


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.