British city wants a patent on ‘Balti’

July 2nd, 2009 - 4:43 pm ICT by IANS  

London, July 2 (IANS) Authorities in the British city of Birmingham are considering applying for European Union protection of ‘Balti’ dishes - a popular form of curry with obscure origins.
If successful, restaurants outside of Birmingham could be banned from using the name Balti - in the footsteps of the famous Champagne (France), Parma ham (Italy) and Wensleydale cheese (Yorkshire).

In order to succeed, the city council would have to prove that the birthplace of the dish is Birmingham, a city with a large South Asian population and lying some 200 km from London.

Balti dishes are thought to have been created in the 1970s by Pakistanis living in the city’s Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath, and Moseley areas, home to some 30 curry restaurants and known as the Balti Triangle.

The origins of the term remain unclear - some food specialists say it goes back to the Baltistan region of Pakistan.

Others say the term, which means a bucket in Hindi and Urdu, was thought up by an enterprising chef as a rival to ‘Karahi’ dishes in the fiercely competitive curry market.

Birmingham’s Balti dishes tend to be oily, spicy meat curries that are served up in small woks.

Local councils can apply to the European Union for Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) or Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) to protect foodstuffs that are produced, processed and prepared in a particular geographical area using recognised know-how.

British dishes that have won such status include the Melton Mobray Pork Pie and the Arbroath Smokie - a smoked haddock.

A council spokeswoman said: “The city is not only the birthplace of the dish, but also home to the UK’s premier community of Balti restaurants and businesses - The Balti Triangle.

“The city council is always seeking new and imaginative ways to promote the city regionally, nationally and internationally, which, if judged to be feasible and to the benefit of local people or businesses, we would not hesitate in pursuing.”

But Suman Sinha of Tandoori magazine said any attempt to prevent those outside Birmingham using the name would upset many in the restaurant trade.

“Birmingham is rightly proud of its creation but there will be strong resistance if they try to stop others from using the name Balti,” said Sinha.

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