The Spice of Life
If you’ve ever been to an Indian restaurant you’ve probably noticed Chicken Tikka Masala on the menu, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be there. And if you’ve never had this aromatic, creamy, spicy and beautiful dish then your taste buds are in for quite a treat!
Double Duty Masala
So what makes Chicken Tikka Masala so incredibly popular? For one thing, this simple dish, which is comprised of chunks of chicken smothered in a creamy spiced tomato sauce, is jam-packed full of complex flavors, spices and textures. The aroma alone, along with the taste, is simply irresistible, especially with a side of couscous or Naan to soak up all that spiced up creaminess.
In Indian cooking, Masala refers to a specific combination of aromatic spices like coriander, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves which you might find in a specialty store expensively packaged up in a convenient little jar as Garam Masala. Or you can just toss in the individual, easy-to-find spices that make up this aromatic Indian spice blend.
Tikka refers to chunks of meat cooked on skewers. Traditionally, Chicken Tikka Masala is marinated in a spicy yogurt-based sauce and then it’s either grilled or braised in a rich concoction of heavy cream or coconut milk. Oh yes, that’s what makes it so good! So I came up with a quicker, healthier and inexpensive way to still get all that flavor, spice and richness out of every little morsel, minus the extra calories and guilt. I simply created a yogurt-based tomato marinade that doubles as the sauce. Now that’s what I call beautiful creative cooking.
Suggested Wine Pairings
There are so many different flavors going on in this one simple but rich dish, from sweet, spicy, savory and even a little bit of acidity from the tomato. Only a direct, crisp yet fruity wine with just a tiny edge of sweetness or bold fruit can stand up to this complex dish. If you are a white wine lover, look for a Gewurtztraminer, off dry Riesling or a new world Sauvignon Blanc. If you prefer red wines, try an Australian Shiraz or California Syrah, both of which would provide enough flavor and also contribute some additional spiciness. A fruit forward spiced up Malbec or Cabernet Franc would also make a great companion.