At first consideration, Birmingham seems an unlikely city to be the origin of an exotic cuisine that has subsequently been adopted by and is adored throughout Britain. But whilst the invention of Chicken Tikka Masala by an Indian restaurant in Glasgow in the 1960s may yet turn out to be an urban myth, there can be no doubting that thanks to Birmingham’s Pakistani and Kashmiri communities which became established in the early 1970s the Balti can truly call Birmingham its British home.
What exactly is a ‘Balti’?
The balti itself is actually the metal bowl in which the meal is prepared and served the word ‘balti’ derives from the Hindi and Urdu word ‘balty’ which means ‘bucket’. However, the name of the delicious combination of fresh meat, vegetables, chillies and spices cooked to perfection within the balti has become interchangeable with the cooking pot.
And what is the ‘Balti Triangle’?
Birmingham’s ‘Balti Triangle’ comprises a number of suburbs and neighbourhoods that showcase the best of the city’s ethnic diversity and multicultural harmony to produce an area that is welcoming, rich in ethnic tradition, colourful, vibrant and an excellent place in which to sample the very best in Asian cuisine.
Here you’ll find as many as fifty individual quality restaurants, Balti houses and takeaways, serving a range of curries and Indian and Asian specialities so wide that there is something guaranteed to satisfy both seasoned curry enthusiasts and those experimenting with Asian cuisine for the first time. Such is the excellence of the restaurants in the Balti Triangle that they can count celebrities such as Adrian Chiles, Nick Owen and Karren Brady amongst their fans; Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha have enjoyed a balti here too.
Where is Birmingham’s Balti Triangle?
The northernmost tip of the Balti Triangle is in the district of Sparkbrook, and from here the triangle widens southwest beyond Balsall Heath and southeast to Sparkhill. The whole area itself is to the southeast of Birmingham’s city centre and is well served by a number of buses, so if you were staying somewhere central like the Hyatt Regency hotel you could easily enjoy a great night out in the Balti Triangle by picking up a bus or taxi on Broad Street, without having to worry about driving.
There’s more to Birmingham’s Balti Triangle than simply great restaurants
Whilst an evening trip to the Balti Triangle can provide an extraordinary and unforgettable culinary experience, there is more to this area of Birmingham than restaurants alone and a visit during the day can be just as fascinating and rewarding.
Forget the chain stores and department stores of Birmingham’s city centre; for some truly eye-opening and unique shopping opportunities wander instead among the independent clothing and fashion outlets, textile stores and jewellers of the Balti Triangle. This is where you can pick up exquisite items of jewellery, hand-crafted garments of the finest silks and fabrics and traditional ornaments and handicrafts that can’t be bought anywhere else.
Even if you’re just browsing, you can’t fail to be mesmerized by the diversity, quality and beauty of the colourful goods on sale here and if you’re looking for an extra-special gift for someone who’ll appreciate something a little out of the ordinary you’re certain to find something that will please among the many eclectic shops of the Balti Triangle.
This post was written by John, a freelance writer based in London.