Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Balti the name of both a cuisine, that of Baltistan in the far north-east of pakistan, and of the wok-like utensil (karahi) which is the main piece of equipment used by Balti cooks.

Until the last quarter of the 20th century Balti food was virtually unknown outside Baltistan. However, the chance which led one emigrant to settle in Birmingham, the second city of England, and to open a modest eating place there for the benefit of other emigrants led to surprising results. The ‘Baltis’, as the eating places also came to be called, multiplied at phenomenal speed, breaking through the 100 barrier in Birmingham within a dozen years or so and also establishing outposts in other English towns and cities. The extent of the ‘invasion’ may not be quite as great as it seems, since a number of existing restaurants from the Asian subcontinent have changed their names or menus so as to embrace Balti dishes and profit from their popularity. However, even with allowance made for this the spread of the Balti houses has been remarkable.