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SAH Month: Celebrating All Things South Asian

by Fatima Durrani

People from all parts of Scotland were an integral part of the British Empire, and the immense wealth accumulated by Britain has been invested across various facets of Scottish Society. South Asian Heritage is a month-long celebration of South Asian people and their contributions to Scotland, in addition to serving as an important reminder that South Asian countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) share many transcontinental links with Scotland.

Celebrating all things South Asian, this blog shares four incredibly South Asian things that are today an integral part of the daily, multicultural Scottish society.

1. Chicken Tikka Masala

Shish Mahal staff showcasing their popular Tikka Masala dish. Source:

It is not possible to mention South Asians and their contributions without mentioning their rich contributions to the food scene in Scotland. Amongst a variety of other delicious dishes introduced by first-generation South Asian immigrants, none won over Scottish hearts as fast as Chicken Tikka Masala. Invented by the Shish Mahal restaurant in Glasgow in 1970, Chicken Tikka Masala has been a favorite all over the UK, so much so that it was one of the most eaten dishes in London in 2023. With an abundance of Indian, Pakistani and Afghan restaurants across metropolitans including Glasgow and Edinburgh, the richly spiced and fragrant meals of Sub-continental cooking are enjoyed by millions of Scottish people each day.

2. Corner Shops

Still Game cast members Naveed and Meena posing in their corner shop.

If you have watched the widely-loved Scottish sitcom Still Game, you know what a typical Corner Shop looks like – run by a friendly brown couple, open at all odd times of the day and night, and likely functioning seven days a week. These long hours and lack of weekends are a testament to the resolve and hard work of first-generation South Asian immigrants to ensure that their future generations would have it easier. Popularly run by first-generation South Asian immigrants who saw an opportunity and seized it, the corner shops have everything basic one might need – the best part being that they’re usually just a few feet from you, open at any hour no matter how late.

3. South Asian Fashion

A stack of colourful fabrics.

Amongst the dull drabber of perpetually cold and rainy Scotland, brightly coloured, intricately patterned and embroidered South Asian textiles are a welcome sight on Scottish streets. The vibrant prints and patterns of Indian and Pakistani fashion have been beautifully incorporated into typical Scottish daily attire, colourfully complementing the pleats and flairs of skirts, dresses, and shirts. First-generation Pakistani migrants from Mirpur played an integral part in Scotland’s emerging textile industry in the 1960s, with these migrants fulfilling Scotland’s growing demand for labour.

4. Chai

People enjoying Chai at the Copan Chai stall, commissioned as part of Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology to explore South Asian cultural heritage in 2017. Source:

Some call it Chai-Tea, some call it Tea-Chai – regardless, Chai supremacy is an undeniable fact that unites Scottish and South Asian communities, because we can all agree that a cup of garam (warm) Chai is the perfect beverage for a rainy afternoon. Chai, as we know it in Scotland, has undergone various variations from its original, simple South Asian recipe – boiling milk, chai, and some sugar if you like. Today, popularly served in all kinds of eateries – fish and chips takeaways, coffee houses, fine dineries – chai is creatively served with masala, fragrant cardamom, rose petals, and even as a latte!

Tikka masala, corner shops, South Asian fashion and Chai are just some of things that add daily tarka to Scotland as we commemorate South Asian heritage and contributions to the vibrant Scottish society. Alongside these things, there are many people of South Asian lineage who contribute tirelessly to Scottish society every day. Let this month be a celebration of them – we see you, we admire you, and we treasure you!

About the Author: Fatima Durrani is a Fundraising and Donations Intern at Amina for Summer 2023. Her internship is in collaboration with the Find a Solution programme at the University of Glasgow.