The four key ingredients of a genuine Birmingham Balti unveiled amid a battle to save the Brummie dish

Birmingham balti expert Andy Munro tells us about his bid to save the Brummie tradition and unveils how you can spot if you’re eating the real thing
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The battle to ensure this city’s most famous dish – the true Birmingham balti – is not lost forever has been spiced-up. 

Andy Munro, an expert who has written books about the world famous curry, wants every remaining city restaurant serving proper baltis to be recognised. 

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Sadly, there are only around 20 left providing the Real McCoy. Others putting baltis on their menus are offering something that doesn’t tikka all the boxes. There are a lot of popadom pretenders out there – and many are oblivious to the fact. 

“Birmingham was always known as the place for baltis,” said Andy. “I don’t want visitors coming here, having a pseudo balti and asking what all the fuss was about. I love the dish and it is a fusion dish, a Pakistan-Birmingham dish.” 

Even the renowned Balti Triangle – a title invented by Andy in the late 1980s – has only around three genuine balti houses. There used to be 30. Andy has approached Birmingham City Council over the possibility of seeking out those eateries giving customers authentic baltis and providing them with a “mark”.

They would receive a certificate to be displayed. Only they could boast serving the real Birmingham balti. The project would cost around £8,000 and Andy is prepared to spearhead the fundraising campaign. The possibility of Lottery cash is being explored. 

Birmingham balti campaigner Andy MunroBirmingham balti campaigner Andy Munro
Birmingham balti campaigner Andy Munro
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It is the latest round in a long battle. The 73-year-old originally attempted to have the Birmingham Balti protected and recognised by the European Union under its Traditional Speciality Guarantee. He even received support from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. 

Brexit put the skids under those plans and since then Defra’s enthusiasm turned cold. “Being a bureaucrat some years ago, I know it’s easier to say no than to be creative,” said Andy, who now lives in Hollywood, just outside Birmingham.

Birmingham balti at risk of disappearing

The culinary art is in danger of being lost because young generations are seeking other professions. “Most of the restaurants are family run,” Andy explained. “Preparing a balti properly is quite a skill. Why would a young guy, who wants to go to university and become a doctor or work in IT, want to be stuck in a very hot kitchen.” 

Under Andy’s proposal to the council, Environmental Services would write to restaurants, visit premises and, when satisfied, present stickers to be displayed in windows. 

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He also, in the future, would like to see the meal recognised by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation). “I want to make the balti culinary rock n roll,” he added. And he’s prepared to keep turning up the heat until that happens. 

Birmingham baltiBirmingham balti
Birmingham balti

What makes a genuine Birmingham balti? 

It was invented at Adil Restaurant, Stoney Lane, in 1975, says Andy. And he has the newspaper cutting proving the dish passes the all important time test – it has been served here for over 40 years. 

“University College Birmingham did a comparison between a genuine balti and a normal curry. There was three times more iron in a balti – the equivalent of 15 pints of Guinness,” said Andy proudly.  “I did a study with University College and they asked Joe Public what a real balti was. Forty per cent didn’t know.” 

The 20 Birmingham restaurants currently serving genuine Birmingham Baltis include Shababs, Shahi Nan Kebab, Popular Balti, Diwan, Royal Watan, Balti Bazaar, and Akrams - all in the Balti Triangle.

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There are four key factors that need to be accomplished for a Birmingham balti to be the real thing.  

  1. It has to be cooked and served in the same dish. 
  2. It has to be fast cooked in under 10 minutes. 
  3. The bowl itself must be of thin steel to build-up maximum heat in the minimum time. 
  4. The process must spark a “maillard reaction” – a caramelisation of ingredients to ensure a sweet after-taste. 

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