My chicken Balti recipe definitely says more about where and when I was raised than any of the previous recipes here on Krumpli and in reality probably more than any recipe I could post. I was born in the mid 1970’s in the UKs second City, Birmingham and if it were to be a Country its national dish would almost certainly be a Chicken Balti… Or it would have been back when I was growing up anyway! As with all sorts of food there are arguments about authenticity and origin and I will stay away from most of that nonsense. But the Balti is ‘officially’ noted as being ‘invented’ in a place called Adils in 1977 in a place now noted as the Balti triangle, a place I remember very well indeed. There has been a great deal of terrible things written about ‘British Indian’ food but without Brick Lane in the 60’s and Birmingham in the 70’s then both British and Indian cuisine would be very different. Authenticity has a place in museums as far as I am concerned, food like language is fluid and alive and the Balti as far as I am concerned played a very important role in the global acceptance of Indian food and certainly in my acceptance and love of international food.
The Chicken Balti, or in fact any Balti has an Anglo Indian heritage, it is born of Indian blood but it is definitely a Brummie child. The name Balti actually refers to the bowl that the curry is cooked and served in rather than the curry itself, although a Balti usually follows a common theme of either meat or vegetables in a thick tomato based sauce of varying degrees in spice. That thick heavy sauce left in the bottom of your Balti dish must be cleared with a naan bread of your choice, ordering anything else in an Indian Restaurant in Birmingham would have resulted in raised eyebrows when I was discovering Indian food.
However as with everything things change with time and Anglo Indian food is no different, the scene in Birmingham has changed beyond recognition with a smorgasbord of regional specialities and a number of very high end Indian Restaurants. Oddly enough the humble Brummie curry (a Brummie is the colloquial term for someone from Birmingham), the chicken balti seems to have been exported around the world with ‘Balti’ restaurants spread as far as the US and Australia and has even been exported back to India and Pakistan.
However at heart a Chicken Balti has all of the things that Indian food is great at, asafoetida, turmeric and Fenugreek for the comforting back end and then chili for heat, which of course you can vary and in the middle you have the cumin, coriander, garlic and ginger holding it all together… I often think that food is a lot like music, pretentious and daft I know, but it is how I think of it when I am trying to create a new recipe. I need a bit of bass, a bit of high end, some rhythm and then something to make it sing. For me Indian food is like the most wonderfully complex music with so much happening and I struggled for years to get that balance just about right without it being a noisy mess, but get the balance just right and then you have something wonderful comparable to nothing else in the world. So just give it a go whether it be my Chicken Balti or any of the other great Indian recipes you can find either on line or elsewhere and get some of that magic Indian spice on your table, I could not live without it!