What is a balti?
Zafar Hussain Master balti chef
The ‘Balti’ was created in Birmingham in the mid seventies by a Pakistani restauranteur who wanted to attract both Western and Pakistani customers. It fused the concept of cooking and serving in the same dish, a method often used in the mountainous areas of Pakistan, with the fast cooking demanded by most Western customers.
A thin pressed steel flat bottomed ‘wok'(the balti) was originally and specially designed and made in the Birmingham area to ensure the effect of fast cooking was maximised. It is used to both cook in and serve up in, thereby retaining all the flavours and the caramelisation that occurs in the cooking process. An absolute prerequisite for the proper and authentic balti so loved by Brummies
Typically, the balti is fast cooked over a high flame in around ten minutes using vegetable oil not ghee because it gives the dish a fresher and healthier taste. Typical ‘curry’ spices are tossed into the balti, such as turmeric and fenugreek, although each chef uses different spices according to their own preferences .
Scientific analysis of a properly prepared balti shows major benefits both in taste and from a health viewpoint compared with a traditionally prepared ‘British’ curry. This includes caramelisation, less fat, and increased iron content which is said to be the most valuable and vital element for the health of the human body.