Since When Is Chicken Tikka Masala Not English Enough?

One of the most popular dishes in the UK was refused for being "not English enough" when a woman brought it to a St. George's Day celebration in Salisbury.

Apr 17 2015, 7:10pm

Photo via Flickr user worldtotable

If there were ever a dish more ingrained in contemporary British food culture than, say, fish and chips or shepherd's pie, it's curry.

Although the history of chicken tikka masala in the UK remains somewhat contentious—Glasgow was once believed to be the birthplace of the dish, though Birmingham, London, and Newcastle have all thrown their hats in the ring—the ubiquity of it is a testament to its popularity. It became a point of pride, even, when in 2001, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook claimed that "chicken tikka masala is now 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."

Well, that also has something to do with colonialism, but let's leave aside that messy business for now.

Point is, chicken tikka masala runs through the UK's veins. So imagine the surprise that took hold of one Tania Rahman when she was told that the curry she brought to a St George's Day celebration was "not English enough."

Indeed, Rahman felt "shocked and upset" when her chicken tikka masala was refused for St. George's Day (thus named in remembrance of that dude who slew a dragon and later became England's patron saint) by Salisbury City Council.

The council noted in an email to Rahman, who owns a street food company called Chit Chaat Chai, that the festivities should include "English-themed food only." Apparently, they had forgotten Secretary Cook's declaration, and preferred a medieval outlook for their medieval celebration.

On her Facebook page, Rahman blasted the council for its close-minded approach to British cuisine. "St George's Day is a celebration of all things English, yet much of English culture (tea drinking, for instance) was adopted from India," she wrote. "In the multicultural hotbed that is modern Britain, it is inconceivable to not celebrate the impact of Indian culture to British life and what better way to do so than by exploring the culinary delights of the former British Empire."

For her coup de grace, Rahman pointed out that St. George himself was of Palestinian heritage, not English.

The council has apologized to Rahman and invited her to return—along with her masala—and claimed that it "never intended to be racist."