Happy Masala with Rice Accident

Spike and Giles... Together at Last

“Chicken tikka masala was created in the 70s. Turns out a chef made up a new dish combining cream of tomato soup with…” (1)

A friend of mine in London told me that story after I mentioned how I happen to love Indian food (Tikka Masala in particular) but know absolutely nothing about the cuisine or its origins. What little knowledge I have gleaned about the cuisine and the country are small impressions of spice diversity. Yep. Total n00b.

In a continued effort to prepare dishes myself (as opposed to frozen or eating out) the other night I was making dinner and opened a jar of tikki masala sauce. Um… From June 2013. (Note to self: check labels at all times.) Frustrated I was completely hosed, I grabbed my jar of Garam Masala spice, a can of coconut milk, tomato sauce, and tomato paste.

VOILA! Happy accident!

Of course, I can’t call what I made chicken tikka masala and shouldn’t be classified as such, but I will say this: sometimes the best recipes do happen accidentally or are inspired by an original dish. In this case, to avoid a major disaster. Which… Yeah, those have happened on occasion. See also: the reason why I haven’t used my tart pan yet. Anyhoo… I love little stories like these. Food is one of the ways to build out worlds and characters. So much cultural history can be found in what people eat. This particular story happens to span not one but three countries!

(1) The footnote to this is that apparently Chicken Tikki Masala’s origin is hotly contested. From this 2009 Times article, there’s a row over the dish. This 2011 Food Detective article digs a little deeper. Jury’s still out on the nom!

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Monica Valentinelli is an author, artist, and narrative designer who writes about magic, mystery, and mayhem. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

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