The plight of the balti: Birmingham’s fight to keep an iconic dish alive

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Packed with as much history as flavour, the balti evolved out of Birmingham’s first-generation Pakistani community in the 1970s and became a post-pub hit with generations of university students and locals. But with just a handful of balti restaurants remaining, what’s the future of this celebrated curry?

I tell Shabab’s Zafar Hussain about that forlorn evening I spent at Adil’s and lamented its recent closing, a closing I naively assumed had been a COVID-19 casualty. I’m caught a little off guard when he tells me it was simply a family matter, that the next generation wasn’t interested in running the business, despite its heritage.

Rising rent prices and changing culinary trends have all contributed to the balti’s current status, but these restaurants have always been family businesses. The question now is whether the children want to keep it that way: “It all depends on families at the end of the day,” says Munro. “Whether families decide if they want to keep it going, and especially the young people. Family support is the future of the balti.”

This seems to me like a precarious position, but if enough people show support, then perhaps Birmingham’s iconic dish will live on for generations to come.

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