Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Chasni curries favour over tikka

Forget deep-fried, battered Mars bars, savoury haggis and... well, Irn-Bru.

Scotland lays claim to conceiving Britain's most popular dish.

And no, its not fish and chips.

It is Chicken Tikka Masala.

Sanjay Majhu, owner of the Harlequin Chain of Indian restaurants, said the mild curry was created decades ago in a Glaswegian kitchen by Asian immigrants catering to Western palates.

He said: "What they were trying to do was knock up a quick curry, so they used tomato soup.

"And they called it a Chicken Tikka Masala, because once you added the spices to the tomato soup all of a sudden it wasn't tomato soup, it was something else."

"But it's definitely one of those dishes that didn't come from India."

The popularity of Chicken Tikka Masala shows no signs of slowing down south of the border in England and Wales.

But there is a another curry threatening to take its crown in Glasgow.

It is called Chicken Chasni and in Sanjay Majhu's chain of Indian restaurants it easily outsells Chicken Tikka Masala 10 to one.

So just what is in a Chasni?

Sanjay said: "It doesn't taste like a curry. In fact it tastes like anything but a curry.

"In fact, it is more like a sweet and sour chicken, that the Chinese have.

"But it is an absolutely beautiful dish because it has Indian spices running through this sort of sweet and sourness.

"I'm just surprised it has become a number one."

Word on the street has it, a former chef, now a restaurant owner, named Balbir created the Chasni.

I hit the streets of Glasgow to track him down.

And let's just say he was pretty easy to find.

After more than 30 years he is still in the curry trade running a restaurant called Balbir's.

He said the Chasni came from catering for people who did not think they liked Indian food.

"The Chasni that is popular in Glasgow is my recipe. I created it in 1982," he said.

"I tend to experiment a lot in the kitchen. There were people who said, 'I can't eat Indian but I like Chinese', and that's how the Chasni came about.

"I tried a few different versions but the one that became the most popular wasn't the one I liked, it was too mild for me."

Truly Scottish

Having tried the sweet and sour Chasni myself, I wondered just why Balbir's brand of unique Indian cooking is so popular with Scottish diners.

Paul, who's been a customer for years, explained its success.

He said: "Balbir is not a follower. He tends to blaze his own trail and others follow him. If you are here you should come and try one. Because afterwards, you'll try another and another and will never leave."

And while Chicken Chasni is clearly a hit in Glasgow, you would be hard pressed to find it in curry houses outside of Scotland.

So for now, if you're looking for a truly Scottish culinary experience, forget haggis, tuck into a chasni.

Source : BBC

* Click here for Chicken Chasni recipe *

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