Walking around London during my recent trip I saw many restaurants called Balti House. I have heard about Balti (pronounced Bulti) curries and seen Balti restaurants but had never tasted Balti since my experiences have focused more on South Indian cuisine. This led me to ask what is Balti?
Balti is a spicy curry dish that is prepared with meat or vegetables and it is cooked over high heat in a large, deep stainless steel or cast iron bowl that has two large handle loops. This vessel is called a balti so it is believed that the dish has become synonymous with the pot in which it is cooked. The dish is served at the table in the very hot balti pot in which it was cooked. The word ‘balti’ translates from Hindi and Urdu, the language of Pakistan, to the English word ‘bucket’. This is fitting since the pot is bucket shaped.
Balti is thought to have originated in the Baltistan region of Pakistan but this style of cooking was brought to England in the 1970s and became famous in Birmingham, northwest of London. Since then this style of cooking has taken the U.K. by storm and has become popular in the U.S. Many restaurants specialize in all recipes Balti. They usually called Balti House or Balti Restaurant. It is also found on the menus of most Indian restaurants. Sometimes it is featured in its own section of the menu. Balti curries can be vegetarian or non-veg with meat, chicken, seafood.
Now that I have told you how it is cooked and how it most likely originated, I will share with you how it is made. The curry is made by frying onions and tomatoes with a blend of Indian spices, then puréeing it. The vegetables and meat, if using, are cut into bite-sized pieces then pan-fried over high heat in oil, just like a stir-fry, until done. Finally the curry is added to the pot and everything is simmered together until the flavors develop and everything is cooked through. The curry is thick and a lot of depth to its flavor. It is quite simple to make and is absolutely delicious. This curry is best served with plain rice or your favorite Indian bread.
I have created my own version of Balti Chicken Curry. I hope you try it and like it as much as my family does. Next week, I will share my recipe for Balti Vegetable Curry.