An article published by the Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Sunday reports the decline of balti restaurants in Birmingham due to the growing popularity of steak houses, cake shops, and other restaurants.
Balti, translates to bucket, and typically features chicken, beef, or lamb with a blend of spices like garam masala, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon. Tomato and chilli puree, coriander, onions, and green peppers are also added, which makes the dish more flavourful.
The speciality of the dish comes from being cooked on a high flame using vegetable oil instead of traditional ghee. The diner is expected to eat out of this balti with freshly made naan or rice.
According to an Outlook India article published in 2019, the balti curry was first introduced in Birmingham by the local Pakistani population, which later spread all over the UK. The restaurant Adil Balti and Tandoori is credited to creating the dish in 1977.
The chefs who created the balti curry wanted to make a fusion dish inspired by Kashmiri recipes but cooked in a way that would be more appealing to the Western palate.
The restaurant was soon joined by a cluster of other balti restaurants, which earned the neighbourhood the name Balti Triangle. Today, only a few remain in the area. Balti curries originated to feed hungry customers from nearby pubs, which have now closed.
The population has also diversified significantly, with more families who prefer to take their time eating, Andy Munro told AFP, the author of the definitive book on balti curries called Going For A Balti.
Zaf Hussain, the chef at Shababs restaurant, which specializes in the dish, also told AFP about learning to cook the curry as a teenager. “The goal was to be able to serve something that would have tasted the same 60 years ago,” he said, “I want to carry this legacy forward for my family and Birmingham.”
With inputs from AFP.