The History of Pakistani Balti Curry


Nawaab London looks at the history of the Balti curry and its origins in the UK.

The Balti curry has been a popular dish since its creation. The Pakistani curry is easy to make, full of spice and always served in a small steel wok known as a ‘balti bowl.’

Due to the curry’s popularity there has been some deliberation over why the dish is in fact named Balti and where the curry originates from.

Traditionally the dish is served in its own wok, alongside rice and other accompaniments such as naan bread. Balti houses, restaurants that only serve Balti style dishes, often serve large Karack naan bread that is broken into pieces and shared by the whole table.

There has been debates over why Balti curry was named ‘Balti’ but it has been concluded that the name originates from the pot that the curry is traditionally cooked in, not a particular ingredient or method of cooking as first thought.

All Balti dishes must be cooked and served in the original pots for them to be officially classed as Balti. Any ingredients can be included in the sauce such as vegetarian options or any  meats.

It’s believed that Birmingham is the original home of the Balti due to its large number of Balti houses. Local legends suggest Balti cooking first appeared in 1977 in a restaurant called Adil’s which was located in the inner city area of Birmingham, Balsall Heath.

Food historian Pat Chapman claimed, in his Pakistani cook book Balti Curry Cookbook,  the origins of the word Balti could be located to Balistan, an area in northern Pakistan. The woks used in Balistan were referred to as Balti but this discovery does not concretely determine Balti style curries had their origins in Pakistan.

Birmingham has a large number of Balti houses in the city centre, the main concentration of the curry houses are located between Sparkhill and Moseley in the South of the city centre, commonly referred to as the Balti Triangle.

The Balti market has also opened up throughout the UK and there are now restaurants throughout the UK that specialise in the dish.

The curry market in the UK has now expanded to an estimated £4 billion a year however some still claim that it is impossible to get a ‘proper’ Balti outside of the urban West Midlands.

At Nawaab London we serve a collection of Pakistani and Indian dishes and the beloved Balti is a firm favourite on our menu. Enjoy your meal in the traditional steel wok and accompanied with plain pilau rice and some naan bread.