By Julia Buckley | CNN

With its chunks of spiced chicken surrounded by a rich tomato and yogurt-based sauce, chicken tikka masala is one of the UK’s most beloved dishes.

Now, the man who is widely credited with inventing it has died at age 77, his restaurant has announced.

Ali Ahmed Aslam was widely hailed as one of the world’s top curry doyens when he is said to have invented the dish at his restaurant Shish Mahal, which he opened in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1964.

Aslam once told news agency AFP that his light bulb moment came in the 1970s, when a customer complained that the chicken tikka was too dry, and needed sauce. Aslam threw together a yogurt-based tomato sauce to accompany the meat.

In 2001, chicken tikka masala came in above fish and chips in a list of the UK’s favorite dishes.

In a speech on the concept of Britishness at the time, Robin Cook, the UK’s late foreign minister, called the curry “a true British national dish, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences.”

“Chicken tikka is an Indian dish. The masala sauce was added to satisfy the desire of British people to have their meat served in gravy,” he added.

“Coming to terms with multiculturalism as a positive force for our economy and society will have significant implications for our understanding of Britishness.”

A bid backed by a local parliamentarian to get the curry EU protected status, and its Glasgow origins recognized, failed in 2009, with other restaurants claiming they invented the dish.

Born in Pakistan, Aslam arrived as a child in Glasgow when his family made the move.

The restaurant, which closed for 48 hours after his death, shared the news in a Facebook post on December 19. “Mr Ali passed away this morning… we are all absolutely devastated and heartbroken,” they shared.

His funeral was held the following day in Glasgow Central Mosque. The restaurant had posted that any restaurant fans would be welcome to attend.


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