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Balti Cooking


Monica Bhide
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Outside of UK; and mostly LON, I've never heard of, or mention of Balti cooking. The closest recollection of folks cooking in baltis or similar utensils that big are probably in open-air langars (not near a gurdwara) or feasting lunches during Durga Pujas in West Bengal. The utensils served in BLCH aren't what I consider baltis. Here s an image I scrounged off the web Ancient Balti

If Balti had derived from baltistan, I'm sure many of my older relatives (who were refugees) would mention it - Delhi (the refugee colonies) and Mumbai (its post partition folks) would have incorporated it into some form or the other in restaurants and/or daily cooking experience.

I remain un-impressed by Brick Lane, in London - did go there once, lookng for beetlenut leaf (paan) experience :wink::wink:

anil

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I presume the Brick lane Curry House refers to Brick Lane in London. The curry houses in Brick Lane are strictly for tourists. No Londoner who knows anything about Indian food eats in them. The term "Balti" has nothing whatsoever to do with the regional origins of the chefs or any particular regional food. Avoid.

Thanks, this really helps clear up some of the myths of this marketing phenomenon. The food I have had that has been described to me as BALTI cooking has always seemed to me to be indian cooking with a kadai.. but not having first hand experience in the UK, I could really not pass judgement. Thanks. BTW what is your favorite Indian rest up there? I have been reading about Zaika.. is it as good as they say it is?

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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I am sorry for being honest.

Suvir: i am not sure why you are apologizing, since in my previous post, i was thanking you for your candor--which i value--not challenging you for it. i apologize if this did not come across as i intended. :sad:

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Thanks for your compliment. I am sorry only for often being honest can be a bad thing. :sad:

But restaurants are like humans, they change and take new forms and find new situations. They can go from one thing to another and back and often find a great way of refining themselves through the process.

It is not difficult to do.. and certainly a restaurant that has won such critical acclaim, can find its feet and stay put.

Lets hope it has.. and I am willing to give it a try, but only after a few trusted old India hands give it a few thumbs up.

I am always ready to be pleasantly surprised.

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Balti cooking, which has gained popularity in the UK, is one of my favorite forms of cooking. It gets its name from "Balti" which literally translates to bucket in India. The cooking is an indian /pakistani style of cooking that uses the wok or Balti as the main utensil

I am waiting for one so fond of this style of cooking to be sharing some insight. :sad: Come on.. tell us more about why you consider Balti cooking to be one of your favorites. We need you now before this style of cooking is questioned any further. Hope you are reading this thread... I know some of us have a life and do family stuff on weekends. Maybe you are enjoying a great Balti preparation, inspired by the restaurants where you have eaten them, or from one of the recipes given by a relative from that region. Lucky you.

What do you like about the Balti dishes that are your favorites? Where do you get them? What restaurants have you eaten them in? What names do these dishes go by? What do you like about them? How are they different from regular kadhai kee sabzee or kadai meats? What about Balti cooking makes it your favorite forms of cooking Monica? Do you have a Balti at home? Since you said somewhere that you have never been to England, I am assuming you have had these in DC or the Middle East or India or somewhere else in the US. Where do you go to find these?

It would be great for us all to know, so we can educate ourselves in the missing link about Balti cooking. After reading the comments from Tony and Anil and also the little I have learned, I find it sad that we are all missing its magic.

I want to be a convert. I want to be in love with it. And I want to be able to share it with others. Please help.:smile:

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BTW what is your favorite Indian rest up there? I have been reading about Zaika.. is it as good as they say it is?

Monica, I haven't been to Zaika but there are a number of "upscale" Indian reataurants in London which are attempting to break the old mould and create a new style of Indian cuisine for Western foodies and gain a Michelin star (which Zaika has done).

At worst, as at The Cinnamon Club and Tabla,you get a horrible French/Indian hybrid which veers towards Frenchified blandness and prissiness and which I've railed against before on this board.

However three of these restaurants I have been to in the last year or so- Bombay Brasserie, Cafe Spice Namaste and Chutney Mary- have all been a mixed bag with some brilliant and original dishes which nevertheless retain a link with regional roots, mixed in with some pretty ordinary ones.

I'm sure you'd find the London Indian food scene fascinating. It is incredibly diverse and much of the most vibrant stuff is away from the Centre , in such

areas as Whitechapel, Wembley, Southall and East Ham. You really need a seasoned Londoner to point you in the right directions, so, as I say, contact us before you come.

Edited by Tonyfinch (log)
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BTW what is your favorite Indian rest up there? I have been reading about Zaika.. is it as good as they say it is?

Monica, I haven't been to Zaika but there are a number of "upscale" Indian reataurants in London which are attempting to break the old mould and create a new style of Indian cuisine for Western foodies and gain a Michelin star (which Zaika has done).

At worst, as at The Cinnamon Club and Tabla,you get a horrible French/Indian hybrid which veers towards Frenchified blandness and prissiness and which I've railed against before on this board.

However three of these restaurants I have been to in the last year or so- Bombay Brasserie, Cafe Spice Namaste and Chutney Mary- have all been a mixed bag with some brilliant and original dishes which nevertheless retain a link with regional roots, mixed in with some pretty ordinary ones.

I'm sure you'd find the London Indian food scene fascinating. It is incredibly diverse and much of the most vibrant stuff is away from the Centre , in such

areas as Whitechapel, Wembley, Southall and East Ham. You really need a seasoned Londoner to point you in the right directions, so, as I say, contact us before you come.

I surely will take you up on your offer! thanks for a great discussion.

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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Alan and I had recently a balti dish at a restaurant named Gandhi on 30th Avenue in Astoria. It was chunks of lamb cooked in a intense, thick, dark brown sauce, served in a kadhai(called a wok on the menu.) The dish came with naan and a mildly sweet raita. We also had a freshly made okra dish, and tandoori shrimp that had been butterflied and skillfully cooked so that they remained moist. We both had copious serivings of kheer for dessert. All the dishes were carefully prepared and served and although the decor is modest, there seems to be real pride in the kitchen. We are looking forward to going back.

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Alan and I had recently a balti dish at a restaurant named Gandhi on 30th Avenue in Astoria.  It was chunks of lamb cooked in a intense,  thick, dark brown sauce, served in a kadhai(called a wok on the menu.)  The dish came with naan and a mildly sweet raita.  We also had a freshly made okra dish, and tandoori shrimp that had been butterflied and skillfully cooked so that they remained moist.  We both had copious serivings of kheer for dessert.  All the dishes were carefully prepared and served and although the decor is modest, there seems to be real pride in the kitchen. We are looking forward to going back.

Thanks Sandra for sharing the details of your meal. Sounds like you really had a great meal. The dishes seem to have been cooked well and certainly with your endorsement, with at least some finesse. You seem to know a lot about Indian cooking. Encouraging words for one like me.

The name of the restaurant is a tragedy. Very poor choice of name. And it makes me wonder if the restaurant is Indian at all. But most Indian restaurants are really not Indian operated.

Gandhi was vegetarian and had quite a well documented regiment with food and traditions. Lamb and chicken would not have made it to a meal endorsed by him. And certainly not shrimp either... But some restaurant owners just do not care for such trivial facts. :shock: I find that name quite offensive. We used to have a restaurant on the Upper West Side in the 80s if I remember correctly, called Mahatma Gandhi. I was always sad reading just the name. I could never bring myself to even step into that restaurant.... But maybe I am poor for thinking like that.

I must try and make it to Gandhi in Astoria, only if to do some homework, and to enjoy the great food Alan and you have experienced.

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I remain un-impressed  by Brick Lane, in London - did go there once, lookng for beetlenut leaf (paan) experience  :wink:  :wink:

Agreed, but as with all things there is always a way to find some good. I have one place there ( it is very near t me ) and when I go, I have the staff curry ( usually fish ) which is invariably delicious and better than anything on the menu.

Always a good trick to try

S

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Simon,

During Ramadan, at Diwan, the employees would eat Bengali food for the Iftaar. I tried to be at the table for as many Iftaars as I could.

Maacher and Chingri Jhol, Khichuri, jhaal muri, mishti doi, shorsha maach, egg curry, aloo bharta, sabzi bharta, and baigun bharta were all being prepared. It was amazing to have so many wonderful dishes from Bengal find a place at the table. What was sad is that these chefs did not think these dishes were good enough to be served on the menu.

I think I may have planted seeds for some change... lets hope. :unsure:

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Suvir

Your list makes me want to cry as it is so hard to find any of these dishes. Fortunately, I am headed to my parents for the holiday and know that one or two of them will be waiting for me

I think you are so right. Bengali food is such a "home food" that it often is more subtle than much restaurant food. People take that subtlety to be a lack of taste as they are used to fiery heat and overpowering spicing

Even the amazing people on Egullet are only beginning to know the difference between spicy food and food cooked with spices and the differences are vast

That is in no small part down to your efforts and those of Monica

Thanks

S

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Simon - are you saying that there is no such thing as a proper Bengali restaurant in the UK? You and Suvir have suddenly awoken an old memory I have of being invited to a flat over Kensington High St where the hosts were a Bangladeshi widower and his children some 14 years ago. I think he worked at the Bangladeshi embassy. We were served a wonderful selection of fish dishes unlike anything I have had before or since - all prepared by himself and his children.

v

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There is no such thing as a true bengali restaurant anywhere. even the much vaunted places in Queens that get shilled on other boards are very very poor in comparison with what you get in a home. Because it is a home food, it does not get any credit as it is not showy, rich or lavish. But, like the bengalis themselves it is the most thoughful and considered of all Indian foods

We have a saying in Calcutta

What Bengal thinks today, India will think tomorrow.

I like to think that the same is true with food. One day Mother will wake up to what the Ghoti's have known for centuries

The food reflects the spirit of both West Bengal ( still part of India ) and East Bengal and within those regions there are a myriad different varieties

The experience you had of the meal with friends is the true experience of eating Bengali food. There are few foods that are prepared with such love and attention but also such blissful simplicity. most dishes have a maximum of three spices ( Ginger, Turmeric and Kalonji being the most usual ) oh and of course, a little sugar. Fish is the real mainstay of Bengali cooking. In Bangladesh it is mainly river fish with lots of bones, in calcutta, the true Ghoti will be the same but many now prefer the meatier and less boney sea fish. Guess which I am?

There is very little else used

I have put some recipes on here, Suvir many more. Do try them. They are so simple and easy to prepare and they will be a great addition to your repetoire

S

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  • 3 months later...

to get to the balti page

http://www.owlsprings.com/the_balti_page.html

This Balti bussiness is a futile discussion. Everyone has a take on it, I tend to lean towards the purists. Imagine balti butter chicken, balti rogan josh. My friend tells me there are touristic guides to London's Balti Houses.

But on the other hand we do not miss an oppportunity to capatalise on its popularity. we have a special next month ' London Balti Chicken'

will let you know more about it after some of the kinks are worked out.

I can see the scottish chefs ears and nose twitching.

Bombay Curry Company

3110 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305. 703. 836-6363

Delhi Club

Arlington, Virginia

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I used to date a British girl from Birmingham (sexy accent) and since we share our appreciation for Indian cuisine. I asked her what's her fave dish - chicken balti. Never seen this dish in any Indian NY restaurant. Where can I find this wicked dish in NY.

During my lean college years as an art student 6th street was a godsend for their $5-6 prix fixe lunches. If Little India didn't exist I highly doubt I'll have the opportunity to try Indian food at all!

Edited by DavidJS (log)
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