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 Anthropology in the News

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 Anthropology of Food

to Sweet Treats around the World

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بلتی پکوان
बुलती पकवान
bulati pakawan


In the News

 Chef from The Balti Triangle, Birmingham, England.

Chef from The Balti Triangle, Birmingham, England

see also
Pakistan > food


Balti (food)
'Balti Triangle'
  Kashmiri cuisine
  The Curry Club
  The Spice Avenue Balti
  Balti wine
  Chicken tikka masala


I. Simple uses.1. A style of cooking influenced by the cuisine of northern Pakistan, comprising highly spiced dishes usually served in wide, round-bottomed, metal pans and accompanied by nan bread. Also: food or a dish in this style.

1982 Heathan (Balsall Heath, Birmingham) July 8/1 (advt.) Specialists in kebab, tikah, balti meats tandoori chicken and all kinds of curry. 1984 Curry Mag. Winter 29/1 Can anyone tell me what Balti is?.. Some unusual dishes on the menu are Curried Quail, Balti chicken or meat. 1990 Independent (Nexis) 24 Feb. 32 A lot of to know about ‘going for a balti’ while training in Birmingham. 1993 Times 26 June (Mag.) 35/2 I've eaten some passable, if crude, South American stuff and supped off the true Brum vernacular, which is the Kashmiri balti—only in this city do you get a table laid with a metre-long bread. 2000 Evening Post (Bristol)(Electronic ed.) 4 Nov., Not that students have to eat curry before a monster drinking session. They can, of course, grab a balti during and after, all equally satisfying.

II. Compounds.

    2. a. General attrib. 

1984 Curry Mag. Winter 29/1 Can anyone tell me what Balti is?.. Some unusual dishes on the menu are Curried Quail, Balti chicken or meat. 1987 Good Food Guide 1988 137 Highlights are the superb balti dishes, cooked and served in blackened iron pans. 1994 Independent on Sunday 7 May (Rev. Suppl.) 53/1 The mushrooming of cheap and cheerful balti restaurants in and around Birmingham, producing unsophisticated one-pot cooking. 2000 Mirror (Electronic ed.) 16 Nov., The local community, proud of their title as the birthplace of Balti cooking, asked that road signs be written in Punjabi.

 b. balti house , a restaurant specializing in this style of cooking. 1985 Yellow Pages: Birmingham South West 320/1 *Balti house Punjab Paradise sweet centre & restaurant... Specialising in balti dishes. 1990 Guardian 24 Feb., (Weekend Suppl.) 19/3 Balti houses in Sparkbrook will let a full couple out the door for well under £10. 1998 P. CHAPMAN 1999 Good Curry Guide 51 Elephant or Family Nans are offered at Balti houses to share to scoop your food up with.

  to lose one's nerve —usually used with out <seemed to exhibit courage, manliness, and conviction when others chickened out — J. R. Seeley

1 a : scared b : timid, cowardly
2 slang a : insistent on petty details of duty or discipline b : petty, unimportant

ETYMOLOGY:   Cookery. Also with capital initial.  [Origin uncertain and disputed.

The word was first used in connection with restaurants chiefly in the area of Birmingham, England, in the early 1980s (cf. quot. 1982; one source claims that that first Balti house opened in 1977, but no printed evidence for this has been found). It is unclear whether there is any antecedent in languages of northern India, Pakistan, or Kashmir; it is not recorded among the many borrowings from these languages in R. J. Baumgartner Eng. Lang. Pakistan (1993).

It is widely suggested that the word is derived < Hindi b{amac}l{tdotbl}{imac} pail, bucket (perh. ult. < Portuguese balde), referring to the small, two-handled pan used in balti houses (Urdu karahi), but as there is no evidence that the Hindi word was used for vessels of this kind, this is probably a folk etymology. Derivation from Panjabi b{amac}{tdotbl}{tdotbl}{imac} deep brass dish (cf. Hindi b{amac}{tdotbl}{imac}, Bengali b{amac}{tdotbl}{imac}) has also been suggested; the intrusion of an -l- would be difficult to explain phonologically, but might have arisen in an English linguistic context from an error in transliteration, from misinterpretation of the retroflex t as -lt-, or by confusion with Hindi b{amac}l{tdotbl}{imac} (see above).

It has also been suggested that the word has some connection with Baltistan (see BALTI a. and n.1). The cuisine is found throughout Pakistan and north-western India, but with the notable exception of Baltistan, which has a subsistence economy (although sharing of food from a communal pot, or bucket, is app. a feature of Balti culture). The first balti houses may have been so named because of their simple, bring-and-share style, or because an early proprietor of such a restaurant was a Balti from Pakistani Kashmir.

  The predominant British pronunciation with back vowel is perh. after BALTIC a. and n.

"balti". Entry revised for OED Online
Copyright © Oxford University Press 2009

In the News . . .

Food from The Balti Trianble, Birmingham, England.

Food from The Balti Triangle
Birmingham, England

Balti gosht.

Food from The Balti Triangle
Birmingham, England


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