Chicken Balti The Original Brummie Curry

A Chicken Balti curry is the pride of Birmingham. A curry not of Indian heritage but of Anglo Indian heritage dating from the late 1970’s that went global!

Chicken Balti is the pride of Birmingham and a curry not of Indian but Anglo Indian heritage dating from the late 1970's and went global!

Chicken Balti

This chicken Balti recipe definitely says more about where and when I was raised than any other recipe here on Krumpli.  I was born in the mid-1970’s in the UK’s 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 many foods, there are arguments about origin and I will stay away from most of that nonsense. However, the Balti is ‘officially’ noted as being ‘invented’ in a place called Adils in 1977. A place now noted as the Balti triangle, a place I remember very well indeed.

A lot of terrible things have been 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.

Chicken Balti is the pride of Birmingham and a curry not of Indian but Anglo Indian heritage dating from the late 1970's and went global!

The Authenticity Question.

The only place for authenticity is in a museum as far as I am concerned. Food like language is fluid and alive.

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 curry usually follows a common theme of either meat or vegetables in a thick tomato-based balti sauce.

That thick heavy balti sauce left in the bottom of your Balti dish must be cleared with a naan bread. Ordering anything else in an Indian Restaurant in Birmingham would have resulted in raised eyebrows when I was discovering Indian food.

Apart from that the flavour of your balti will vary massively depending on where you eat it!

Chicken Balti is the pride of Birmingham and a curry not of Indian but Anglo Indian heritage dating from the late 1970's and went global!

The Changing Face of Anglo Indian Food.

However, as with everything things change with time. Anglo Indian food is no different, the scene in Birmingham has changed beyond recognition with a smorgasbord of regional specialities. Not to mention a number of very high-end Indian Restaurants.

Oddly enough the humble Brummie curry, 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 its heart, a Chicken Balti has all of the flavours that Indian food is known for. Asafoetida, turmeric and Fenugreek for the comforting back end. Then chilli for heat, which of course you can vary and in the middle you have the cumin, coriander, garlic and ginger holding it all together.

Chicken Balti is the pride of Birmingham and a curry not of Indian but Anglo Indian heritage dating from the late 1970's and went global!

The Composition Of Recipes.

I often think that food is a lot like music, pretentious and daft I know. However, it is how I think 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.  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.

Just give it a go whether it be my Chicken Balti or any of the other great Indian recipes you can find either online or elsewhere and get some of that magic Indian spice on your table.

I could not live without it!

Chicken Balti is the pride of Birmingham and a curry not of Indian but Anglo Indian heritage dating from the late 1970's and went global!
Chicken Balti: The Original Brummie Curry

Chicken Balti: The Original Brummie Curry

Yield: 2 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Chicken Balti is the pride of Birmingham and a curry not of Indian but Anglo Indian heritage dating from the late 1970's and went global!

Ingredients

For the Gravy

  • 1/2 Large Onion, We will use the other half later
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Chili
  • 20 g Ginger, Peeled
  • 1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1/8 Tsp Asafoetida
  • 1/2 Tsp Black Onion Seeds
  • 1/2 Tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 1 Tsp Ground Corriander
  • 1 Tsp Ground Turmeric
  • 1/2 Tsp Ground Fenugreek
  • 1 Tablespoon Tomato Puree
  • 200 ml Tomato Passata
  • 1 Tsp Honey
  • 100 ml Water

For the Curry

  • 1/8 Teaspoon Asafoetida
  • 1/2 Green Pepper, Roughly chopped
  • 1/2 Large Onion, Quartered
  • 2 Tomatoes, Cut into 8 wedges and de-seeded
  • 2 Chicken Breasts, Cut into Large Chunks
  • 1/4 Tsp Salt
  • 2 Tsp Garam Masala
  • 4 Tbsp Natural Yogurt, (optional)

Instructions

  1. Roughly chop half of the onion and place in a blender with the garlic, ginger and chili and blend to a smooth paste, add vegetable oil if required to let down the paste
  2. Heat a wok over a high to medium heat with 1 tbsp of vegetable oil and add the asafoetida, black onion seeds and Cumin seeds and fry for 30 seconds to a minute
  3. Then add the onion paste all allow to cook out for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Now add the ground spices and cook out for 1 minute.
  5. Add the tomato puree, tomato passata, water and honey then allow to cook down for 5 minutes, now is a good time to check the gravy for spice, if you want it a little hotter add some kashmiri chili powder.
  6. Set this gravy aside and clean out your wok.
  7. Throw in the Pepper and the Onion and cook until the edges begin to catch which should take 2 or 3 minutes.
  8. Then add the chicken and stir for a couple of minutes season with some salt and add your gravy and tomatoes then turn down the heat to medium and cook until the chicken is tender which should take about 20-25 minutes depending on how large you chopped the chicken.
  9. Once cooked remove from the heat and add your Garam Masala and natural yogurt, stir and allow to sit for a minute before serving.

Notes

Needless to say this should definitely be served with Naan Bread or the whole of Birmingham will collectively sigh in disapproval 😉

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 676 Total Fat: 30g Saturated Fat: 8g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 16g Cholesterol: 154mg Sodium: 1408mg Carbohydrates: 43g Fiber: 7g Sugar: 17g Protein: 61g
Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

Readers Comments

23 thoughts on “Chicken Balti The Original Brummie Curry”

  1. Thanks Brian this recipe is amazing! !! By far the best one I’ve tried and I’ve been cooking curries for decades now. Nice to know I’ve got it right.

  2. This is the second week I have tried this recipe… Why? Because last week, after we got home from the match, it was by far the best home made Balti I have ever done, and tomorrow night is Curry night, so after marinating in the fridge over night I know it will be great!
    I have been scouring the internet for a GOOD Balti recipes for years, although, I have also been working from Kris Dillon’s book since the 90s, but it’s time for a change. Living in Brum, we’re never far from a Balti House, but we’ve had too many sit down disappointments of recent, so this recipe is top of my Balti list… Cheers Brian and thanks

    • Cheers Paul… Thanks for taking the time to write to me! So glad you like this, it was designed to trigger my memories of eating balti growing up in Brum, I’ve been living in rural Hungary for 10 years and this triggers memories every single time!

  3. I have to say a massive “Thank You” Brian for this recipe!! I grew up not too far from the Balti Triangle and used to go to Ladypool Rd (The Lunch House/Box I think?) back in around 1984/5. I think that closed down, and I ended up for many years going to the Grand Tandoori that was just around the corner on the Stratford Rd.

    I have tried, literally hundreds of times to recreate something even vaguely similar, and always failed (I don’t live in the UK anymore). But finally, the quest is over 🙂

    I missed out the yoghurt, and Garam at the end, and added a bit of fresh Corriander, and it was PERFECT!!

    So, thanks again, and I’m looking forward to trying out some more of your recipes!!

    • Cheers Paul… I remember the Grand Tandoori well. Glad you like the curry, my curry recipes are built at trying to recreate the rough flavours that I remember from that very area in the early 90’s, so hopefully youfind a few more that trigger memories! Enjoy 🙂

  4. Thank you Brian I will definitely try this as we used to eat in Adils when you had to ask for cutlery -if you dared! 30 years later and now living in Perth, Australia, it will give the kids a taste of home😜😜😜

    • Haha… I remember lots of the restaurants being cutlery ‘reluctant’ and still much prefer to eat my curry with flat bread 😀 I hope the kids love your taste of home!

  5. Just made this following instuctions to the T. I live in birmingham also so have been and still go to many a balti house.. The smell is awesome when cooking of the spices. Served it up in a balti dish with rice on the side and a garlic Nan.
    I actually really liked it and would make it again my wife who is asian (Thai) also loved it. The only thing i would say is if you like a bit of a kick to it then add some more chilli as Brian points out.
    Going to make this for the relatives when they come over for a meal. It would be perfect for them as they dont like to much spice where im a Madrass lover.
    Great reciepe and easy to follow thanks Brian for sharing.

    • Cheers Peter!

      Spice in a recipe is so difficult to write for, I know people that will claim a recipe is too spicy if there is a cut chili in the same kitchen I prepared their food in lol. Glad you like it, Balti changes so much from place to place so kinda relied on my memories of balti from my favourite places on the Ladypool Road.

    • Not at all Ash, not cooking Garam Masala is a pretty classic and old school technique and provides the high note flavours in the recipe as opposed to the slighter deeper and duller notes of the cooked spices… You do need to stir it in and allow to sit for a couple of minutes.

  6. Going to try this on Thursday. Balti is well known to me as I am on the edge of Birm/Black Country in Hednedford and I’m a musician and all musicians are curry fanatics (esp after a gig!!) Have also trained as a chef but can’t make curry like the restaurant.Despite the Balti triangle the best curry the wife and I have ever eaten (several times) was at ‘Spice For You’ in Pickering Yorkshire. I’ll let you know if I succeed on Thursday.
    Going to try your Biriyani at some point as it’s the wife’s fav.

    Best

    Graham

    • Hey Graham, great to hear from you… I hope you enjoy my take on a Balti, Hednesford is not far from my old stomping grounds, I am a Brummie by birth and most have eaten hundreds of Balti’s all a little different, aint that always the way 😉 I used to live in the Balti Triangle, the Moseley end to be precise, sadly there are far fewer curry houses in my new home, I have to travel 100km to the nearest one 😮

  7. Its pretty close to a balti flavour 😉 I like mine a bit hotter.And Naan is obligatory for any dish in Brum.Even rice pud!

    • Cheers Nick, given the variation on ‘balti’ I have tried around Birmingham, yet alone further a field I’ll take close 🙂 I’ll also see your naan with rice puc and raise you under the grill in the morning and spread with marmalade for breakfast 😀

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  9. Can’t wait to give this a go, I grew up in Wolverhampton same era and remember what a good chicken balt tastes like. I now live in New Zealand and look forward to cooking this for my family, a taste of home, thanks for sharing,

  10. I love balti! I have a pretty robust lamb balti recipe on my blog too and it’s my go to recipe. I have to admit though I do not think I have every made balti with chicken though. so this is looking pretty good!

    • Lamb Balti sounds awesome, I would hazard a guess that chicken Balti is probably the most ordered Indian dish in restaurants of that type in Birmingham where I was born 😉

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