Birmingham’s famous Balti curry could soon have protected status throughout the EU, meaning anyone wishing to use the “Birmingham Balti” brand would have to follow strict guidelines on the traditional recipe.
The Birmingham Balti Association has applied for the dish be recognised as a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed product (TSG), a status currently afforded to just two other foodstuffs in the UK: Gloucestershire Old Spots Pork and Farm-Fresh turkey. In order to qualify as a Balti, chefs would need to cook fresh ingredients in the same utensil as the curry is served in.
It would prevent supermarkets slapping the “Birmingham Balti” label on frozen meals, as well as disallowing “Balti” restaurants from putting pre-cooked ingredients in the traditional steel bowl before serving.
Irene Bocchetta, EU Protected Foods manager at ADAS UK, the agency helping to process the application, said: “Say if there was a curry house in Germany making a Birmingham Balti, they would have to use the same method.” She added that a further 30 British foods are in line to become protected, a status the makers of the Cornish pasty, Melton Mowbray pork pies and Stilton blue cheese currently enjoy.
Imran Butt, the owner of Imrans Restaurant in Birmingham, said: “The difference with the Birmingham Balti is that it uses traditional flavours and the recipe has been passed on from generation to generation,” adding that the move to protect the dish would be beneficial to the city’s Balti Triangle. “In the 70s and 80s, the spices and flavours were difficult to get hold of, so you had to import them from the subcontinent. But now you can get them in the supermarket,” he said.
The Birmingham Balti is subject to a 12-week consultation, which ends in September. If successful, the plans will go to Defra, who will then decide whether or not to forward it on to the European Commission. The process doesn’t always bear fruit. Last week, Lincolnshire sausages were rejected on the grounds that there was not enough evidence to suggest they “originated in the geographical area”, so the onus is on Balti enthusiasts to prove the provenance of their generations-old recipe.