There's nothing shy about the tikka masala's outfit. Bold and bright, it's the showgirl of curries. But fear not, the tikka masala isn't a case of style over substance – this vibrant splash-of-sunshine-on-a-plate dish packs a proper punch of flavour. It's the perfect curry to go for when you're in the mood for some subtle spice – nothing too hot, but with a little kick at the end.
Masala refers to the sauce – or gravy, as it's sometimes called – and so you could technically have anything-you-like masala. However, chicken tikka masala is the most famous version, enjoyed all over the world.
Chunks of chicken breast are marinated in spices for as long possible, and patience pays off in the marinating process. This is where the magic happens. Doing it 'properly' means marinating for about 48 hours, which makes it hard to beat the tikka masalas from proper Indian restaurants.
The key ingredients are cumin, garam masala, paprika, lemon juice, and copious amounts of garlic and ginger, as well as yogurt – which helps to tenderise the meat. The chicken is then cooked in a wood-fired or charcoal-fired tandoor – another impossible-to-replicate-at-home element – to give it that magnificent charred and smoky effect, before being added to a spicy tomato-based sauce.
Sparkle with saffron
When you find such an internationally adored dish as the tikka masala, you can count on restaurants honouring its time-old traditions, meaning that you're unlikely to find any off-the-wall crazy creations out there. However, making a curry has always been a very personal affair, and you'll find discreetly different takes on the classic, courtesy of the chef's individual style.
While the folks at Kurry Korner keep things traditional, at Indian Curry House, the marinade really pushes the chicken tikka masala into the limelight by adding a generous heap of saffron to the mix. As well as being one of the most expensive of all spices, saffron's gorgeous golden yellow colour gives it a glamorous attention-grabbing get-up that glitters from centre stage – what a show-off.
Vegetarian show time
You're not going to get left out if you're feeling the vegetarian vibe either. Indline – The Indian Cookery do Paneer Tikka Masala, where this firm-yet-tender cheese is given the same special treatment. It's marinated to perfection and cooked in the tandoor oven before being sensationally smothered in that rich and fragrant sauce.
Standing ovation for the tikka masala, please. This dish definitely deserves an encore.
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