The Balti-Birmingham website is a guide to Birmingham's famous Balti Triangle and seeks to provide all the information need in one place. It also provides an opportunity for feedback which will benefit this unique area and its restaurants.
The Balti became famous when it first appeared in restaurants in the 'Balti' Triangle area of South East Birmingham around 1975. It was invented by the local Pakistani/Kashmiri community who developed the dish loosely based on home-style cooking serving the meal in the bowl in which it is cooked so as to retain all its flavours. Naan, rather, than rice accompanies the meal and is used to scoop up the food and to wipe clean the bowl at the end. The dish was adapted to Western tastes and needs for example using meat off the bone and fast cooking which meant less waiting time for hungry customers. Vegetable oil and original spices and herbs are used in its preparation unlike the ghee and curry pastes and powders used in Indian restaurant food elsewhere.
The term 'Balti' is a bit of a mystery as there is not only a place called 'Baltistan' but it also means in Hindi/Punjabi a bucket or cooking utensil. The freshness and informality of the food soon caught on plus there was the added bonus that Balti restaurants were unlicensed allowing people to bring their own drinks. Even the cooking receptacle 'the balti bowl' was first developed and manufactured in Birmingham using thin pressed steel rather than cast iron.
The Birmingham Balti is a style of cooking where every chef uses a different combination of spices but cooks in a thin pressed steel ‘wok’ which heats up quickly and to which is added a small amount of vegetable oil. Either onions or tomatoes are used as a base with freshly cooked chicken breast (or part cooked lamb) being used in most meat baltis. During the fast cooking process over a high flame, ginger and garlic puree are added with a selection of spices including fenugreek, turmeric, cumin and a garam masala mix. On the point of serving, fresh coriander is usually sprinkled on top– fresh and healthy cooking at its best!
As this site develops,we want to hear about your first balti (when it was and where it was?) and also to post up your comments about your visits to restaurants and shops in the area.
Please remember that the main restaurant reviews posted up are just one person’s opinion so all views are welcome and we’ll be making sure that the restaurants know what’s good and bad about their offer.
Balti Curry Cookbook by Pat Chapman; the first Balti cookbook to burst onto the scene in the 1990s. Written by probably the foremost Curry expert and founder of the legendary 'Curry Club',it has a wide range of recipes.
100 Best Balti Curries by Diane Lowe and Mike Davidson; a really authentic book with recipes gleaned direct from named restaurants and their chefs in the Balti Triangle area. They include some real classics from the height of the Birmingham Balti boom such as Kirran's Fish Starter handed down through generations.
Balti Britain by Ziauddin Sardar; more cultural than cuisine based - an entertaining take on the British Asian experience but sadly flawed in its references to Balti.