My niece Emily and her husband Hitesh have perfected their version of the iconic Indian recipe for chicken tikka masala. They were generous enough to share their recipe, their notes, and their techniques with me to achieve what they describe as the ultimate chicken tikka masala. Tikka masala marinates chicken breasts in yogurt and spices and then gently simmers the chicken in a creamy tomato spiced sauce.
There is some debate as to who actually invented the legendary chicken tikka masala. The British, who also claim the creamy spicy chicken as one of their national dishes, claim that the recipe was invented by a Bangladeshi chef in Scotland.
Emily and Hitesh experimented for 2-3 years consulting with family and friends and trying multiple recipes until they achieved the perfect balance of savory flavors that they had in mind for their version of tikka masala. According to Emily and Hitesh, after repeated attempts they finally discovered the secret ingredient that provided the flavor that had eluded them. Behold, it was smoked paprika! They strongly advise using only smoked paprika rather than substituting regular or sweet paprika.
I order my smoked paprika online from a Spanish import company. In my opinion, Spanish and Hungarian paprikas, either the sweet or the smoked are superior. I love the deep red color and the rich and intense smoky flavor of the smoked version recommended for this recipe.
Emily’s original recipe calls for more butter and cream than I am accustomed to eating. She and Hitesh recommended 2 1/2 sticks of butter and 2.5 cups of heavy cream. I adapted her well researched recipe for a version with less of each of these dairy products which appeased my delicate tummy and was quite tasty. I also substituted ghee for regular butter but you could also use butter if you prefer.
I like to serve the tikka masala with steamed basmati rice and warm naan. Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped fresh cilantro.