Posted by Lewis on October 13, 2003
In Reply to: Brits: have a balti and a beer ? posted by TheFallen on October 13, 2003
: : I just read the following in the Yorkshire Post: "We wanted to encourage people to go out for the evening by bus, enjoy a balti and a couple of beers...."
: : As a Yank, I understand from the article's context that they're talking about curry -- in Birmingham -- but what's the derivation of the word "balti", and does it have a special meaning different from "curry"?
: : Thanks.
: You're right. A balti is indeed a type of curry that's legendarily popular in Birmingham and throughout the Midlands. It's named after the rounded iron skillet that it's both cooked and served in and is usually accompanied by naan bread rather than rice. The origins of the word itself are presumed to stem from Baltistan, a mountainous region of present-day Pakistan.
I don't know what the tradition in the States is, but young and middle-aged Britain has adopted Friday night being curry night.
How it happened, nobody knows, but Friday night IS curry night. It used to be fish (& chips) on Friday, following the Catholic tradition, but now it is curry. Whether take-away or in an Indian restaurant.
What people must remember is that "Indian" really means anywhere in the Indian sub-continent and that these days most serious restaurants specialise in a particular cuisine. Our local is Bengali and a friend's sister's restaurant had a Kashmiri emphasis. Tandoori and Balti are two of the biggest styles sales-wise representing dry cooking (in a tandoor oven) and saucy cooking (in a balti pot). Yum. (Can still remember last weekend's).
It is not a phenomena that is social/economic -class-based - anybody from the janitor to the chief exec might adopt the Friday night ritual. Indeed, I sometimes have my Friday-night curry with College Principals, a BBC head and a Bishop, other times I'd have it with carers, teachers, IT folk, catering workers and a gardener.
Of course beer goes so well with curry - light beers in particular and lagers - the classic being Kingfisher and Cobra, but the best being Bangla lager. Hog's Back Hop Garden Gold, Fullers Summer Ale, Hop Back Summer Lightning and other light golden bitters will go just as well.
Outside of Birmingham's Balti Belt - if you really want the authentic real deal in the south, the main thoroughfare in Southall and East London's Brick Lane are the places to go.