What Is A Balti Curry?

No matter what Indian restaurant or takeaway you are ordering from, they are bound to have a balti on the menu. But, where did this popular dish come from and why is it so popular?

What does Balti mean?

The word balti is derived from the Hindustani language; although it is found in Odia and Bengali, the translation means ‘bucket’. It is an adaptation of the Portuguese word ‘Balde’; it is said that this word arrived in India with Portuguese merchants in the 16th Century.

Curry Origin

The popular curry dish is associated with Northern India and Pakistan, but it also has ties with Birmingham in the UK. The curry’s origin comes from a fusion of Kashmiri dishes created by the City’s Mirpuri community in the 1970s. The curry dish tends to be lighter, healthier and quicker to cook than other curry dishes found in India and Pakistan.

There are some stories which say that Birmingham Balti was developed for the men who came to the UK for work in the 1970s; they were unable to bring their wives with them. Traditional curries from India and Pakistan were often cooked all day, so the working men developed a dish that could be prepared quickly at the end of a long day’s work.

Is a Balti Spicy?

There are no definitive ingredients in a Balti, but it is named after the utensil used to cook it. As there are no specific ingredients, there is no desired level of spiciness, especially as there are different forms of curry that can be cooked in balti style. Balti dishes often include garlic-ginger paste, spices, generous vegetables like tomatoes, and bell peppers.

Standard Baltis are often cooked to a medium level of spice, hotter than a korma but not as spicy as a madras. You can usually ask for the takeaway or restaurant to turn the heat up or turn it down if you want to put your own spin on the unique flavours.

How is the dish served?

A traditional balti is served in the dish it was cooked in, a round bottom cast iron wok; some sides frequently come with the dish; you can order either rice or naan bread. Traditional flavours usually include tikka masala, tandoori, rogan josh and korma, all of which can be cooked in a balti style. All Balti dishes are cooked and served in the original pots for them to be officially classed as Balti.

Birmingham’s Balti Triangle

The balti dish is associated with the city of Birmingham; Sparkbrook, Sparkhill and Moseley are the areas in the city that are now known as the Balti Triangle. This is because the areas are famous for the number of quality balti restaurants or ‘Balti Houses’ as they call them. The increase in popularity of the dish has meant that the Balti Houses have spread out wider into the West Midlands and the rest of the UK.

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