Before coming to India when I thought of Indian cuisine chicken tikka masala would always come to mind. This was my go-to dish at Hema’s Kitchen, my favorite Indian restaurant in Chicago. But, while in India, many days and weeks passed before I ever even saw this on a menu.
How naïve was I? A nation of over one billion people, more than 30 separate states and therefore a wide variety of food, and I couldn’t wait to get to India to try the dish I love so much from my favorite ethnic restaurant back home.
What I learned is that Indian food in other parts of the world almost invariably hails from one state – Punjab. This is not altogether a bad thing. The northwestern state of Punjab is well-known in its own country for its tasty cuisine. But it, of course, is not all that Indian food has to offer.
Nonetheless, I was elated when we ate at our first Punjabi restaurant in India and I was able to have my still favorite Indian dish, chicken tikka masala. Chicken tikka is made up of boneless cubes of chicken cooked in a tandoor, or a clay oven, with yogurt and is cooked in a masala, a curry with a slew of spices.
Due to the slow cooking preparation, the meat is soft and melts in your mouth. The spicy curry and thick gravy give the chicken an extra kick.