Bangers and mash? Fish and chips? Nah. The most popular takeout dish in Britain continues to be chicken tikka masala, baked or broiled chicken “tikka” marinated in yogurt and a “mix of spices” (or masala), flavored in a smoky and subtly spicy, creamy tomato sauce. Legend has it that the dish was first created by a Bangladeshi chef in a curry shop in London, who responded to a diner’s complaint about his overcooked, dried-out chicken tikka by dousing it in canned tomato soup and cream. As the general level of Brit comfort with exotic spices and flavors rose, so too did the number of recipes for chicken tikka masala, until a national phenomenon was born.
The familiar ingredients and barely-there spice make chicken tikka masala a great choice for getting started eating and cooking Indian cuisine. The smooth, velvety tomato sauce enrobes the charred chicken in layer upon layer of flavor, resulting in a dish that is faintly exotic, but never overwhelming for beginning cooks and diners alike.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Serves 6; Adapted from a recipe in Saveur
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 4 teaspoons garam masala
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 2″ piece ginger, peeled
- 1 jalapeño, stemmed
- 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
- 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1⁄4 cup Greek yogurt
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1⁄2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Cilantro leaves, for garnish
- Cooked basmati rice, for serving
In a food processor, puree turmeric, 2 teaspoons garam masala, garlic, ginger, jalapenos, and 1/2 cup water. Remove paste to a small bowl.
Without rinsing food processor, puree tomatoes, and press through a sieve.
Slice chicken breasts in half lengthwise. In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the paste, chicken, yogurt, and salt.
Marinate for 30 minutes.
Move oven rack to top position of oven, and preheat broiler on high.
Transfer chicken to a foil-lined cookie sheet and broil until cooked and blackened in spots, about 8-10 minutes.
Flip chicken and cook another 8-10 minutes.
Let cool and chop into 1-inch chunks.
Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add coriander and cumin; toast 4–6 minutes. Add paprika and onions; cook until soft, 6–8 minutes. Add remaining paste; brown for 5–6 minutes. Add tomatoes; cook for 2 minutes. Stir in cream and 1/2 cup water; boil. Reduce heat; simmer until thickened, 6–8 minutes.
Stir in remaining masala and chicken; season with salt. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice.