Indians boil over Scottish bid to patent chicken Tikka Masala

Last Updated: Wednesday, August 5, 2009 - 19:00

London/New Delhi: A Pakistani-born British MP`s attempt to patent the spicy chicken tikka masala as a dish of Scottish origin has fallen foul of Indian chefs and food experts.

Labour MP Mohammed Sarwar has tabled an Early Day Motion in Britain`s lower house of parliament claiming the chicken tikka masala -- once crowned Britain`s national dish -- originated in the Scottish city of Glasgow.

Sarwar, who is supported by other MPs from Scotland, claims the dish was invented in Glasgow in the early 1970s and now wants the European Union to grant the city `Protected Designation of Origin` for the dish.

But the Daily Telegraph newspaper Wednesday said the claim was dismissed as "preposterous" in New Delhi.

Zaeemuddin Ahmad, a chef at Delhi`s Karim Hotel, which was established by the last chef of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, said the recipe had been passed down through the generations in his family.

"Chicken tikka masala is an authentic Mughlai recipe prepared by our forefathers who were royal chefs in the Mughal period. Mughals were avid trekkers and used to spend months altogether in jungles and far off places. They liked roasted chicken with spices," he said.

Rahul Verma, Delhi`s authoritative expert on street food, said he had first tasted the dish in 1971 in an eatery in the Pandara Road market, a popular food enclave in the heart of the capital.

"The chicken tikka masala -- as it stands today -- originated in Punjab before partition.

"It`s not more than 40-50 years old and must be an accidental discovery which has had periodical improvisations. Earlier, chicken tikkas were made without spices and onions. Just plain -- and only the rich could afford it. Chicken had never been a part of the Old Delhi cuisine. The old Delhiites always loved red meat," Verma told IANS.

The butter chicken, Verma said, was created in 1947, that is, around the time of Indian independence. "The Moti Mahal restaurant in the capital came up with the recipe."

The chicken tikka masala is a colourful curry full of Indian flavours. Cubes from the fleshy chicken breasts are seasoned with traditional Indian spices of ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, garam masala, tomatoes and paprika -- and cooked till tender.

Himanshu Kumar, the founder of the food group Eating Out, added: "Patenting the name `chicken tikka masala` is out of the question. It has been prepared in India for generations. You can`t patent the name, it`s preposterous."

Glasgow`s claim follows reports that Birmingham has applied to protect the ?Balti`, so that only Balti dishes made in the city -- home to many Pakistani restaurants -- can carry the name.

Buerau Report

First Published: Wednesday, August 5, 2009 - 19:00

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