Chicken Tikka Masala*

I will start with the main message. Chicken Tikka Masala IS the same as Butter Chicken. Simple. 

Now for the longer post, complete with digressions. 

I read a little while ago that Chicken Tikka Masala was Britain’s favourite dish. (It’s recently been overtaken by stir fry, apparently.) And was often served at pubs. (I remember on my first trip to the UK being served a curry with chips – as in fries – in a flash pub and thinking, replete with my early 20s sophistication, what uncouth barbarians these English are!)

So I planned to have a chicken tikka masala when I got here. Unfortunately, Britain has moved on. There’s a tonne of gastropubs (gastro is the new gourmet, though gastro means something entirely unappetising to me) but none serve curies. Comfort food seems in. And the Indian restaurants seen to have gone “authentic”. 

But luckily we found an “old-fashioned” curry house. (Doubly luckily, it was the cheapest place at which we ate and was yummy so we went twice. Half the price than most places so comparing taste for money it was the best.)

So I ordered Chicken Tikka Masala. 

When it arrived it looked suspiciously like the dish I always order when we go to an Indian restaurant in Australia. 

Butter Chicken. 

In fact, so often do my sons and I order it, and we always get two because we don’t want to share, we earn the ire of Mr S. But for us Butter Chicken is not only our dish of choice, it is the only main course we really enjoy. And for us it defines the restaurant. Butter chicken no good? Well we won’t return. Suffice to say, I am a Butter Chicken expert. 

Not only did the Chicken Tikka Masala LOOK like Butter Chicken, it tasted like Butter Chicken. 

Could it be the same by another name?

When we got back to our accommodation I googled it. Most agree it is. One pompous Indian writer said they were different dishes. That the Tikka Masala was developed from England based on Campbell’s Tomato Soup while the Butter Chicken came from fresh tomatoes in Indian. 

Clearly she hasn’t heard of convergent evolution. 

They are the same dish. 

Variations between restaurants will be greater for each than any variation between the two “different” dishes. 

At least my sons and I can eat at Indian restaurants in the UK content in the knowledge we will get our dish. 

* a rose by any other name. 

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8 thoughts on “Chicken Tikka Masala*

  1. I had to google it because I’ve never had butter chicken or chicken tikka masala. Tomatoes + cream and spices sounds like a delicious combo to cook lots of things in; I will look for someone who has turned it vegetarian! So glad the cheap place was a tasty place!

    • Very rich! I don’t know that the vego version would be the same because the chicken is cooked a certain way which gives it the favour. But there is stir through Butter Chichen and Timka Masala sauces, so maybe I’m wrong. Then again, I haven’t checked if they’re vegetarian.

  2. You are talking our language, yet again. For my children, a ‘proper’ curry involves any chicken and assorted green veg (or more recently, chickpeas and veg) in a spice, tomato and cream (or coconut cream) sauce. They will literally eat anything green I put in this curry. It’s like magic.

    We do call it butter chicken, but I am a complete barbarian, and put in whatever curry paste I have on hand, butter chicken, tikka masala, rogan josh, whatever.

    After reading this post I checked my Patak jars – Tikka Masala is 20% oil, and Butter Chicken has none, but has ground almonds and tamarind. Apart from that they have fairly identical ingredients in different concentrations. Fascinating!

    • Your curries sounds like our curries. But when it comes to Butter Chicken – no veg allowed. Does the Patak’s butter chicken call for fresh cream – cause there’s your fat/oil. I think Butter Chicken tastes better in restaurants because they’re not afraid to add tonnes of butter and cream.

  3. Lol – I thought Tikka Masala was the Indian translation of Butter Chicken 😉

    We were determined to visit an Indian restaurant in London and so we did. We went to the most amazing place where the curries were every bit the London curries of my imagination. Best meal we had on our entire trip and I wish we could go back there. Wish List item fully checked off.

    • I thought it was a curry that we didn’t have. For some reason. Now know they couldn’t offer both a Tikka Masala and a Butter Chicken as they are the same.

      One item ticked off for me too.

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