Birmingham Balti: Birthplace of famous curry dish strives for protected status

Gaby Leslie

Curry houses in Birmingham are rooting for its city’s signature dish – the Birmingham Balti - to be given special protection.

The Birmingham Balti Association launched an application to the EU Protected Food Names scheme so that its curries can receive Traditional Speciality Guaranteed Status (TSG).

If granted then the specialty - an extremely popular recipe in the city’s so-called ‘Balti Triangle’ - will get an EU protected name.

This would mean that only curries which follow a precise recipe can market themselves as a ‘Birmingham Balti’.

The EU Protected Food Name Scheme identifies regional and traditional foods whose authenticity and origin can be guaranteed.

Birmingham is known as the birthplace of the Balti - named after the type of flat-bottomed wok it is cooked in.

There is a cluster of Balti houses situated south of Birmingham city centre in the Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath, and Moseley areas.

Under the system a named food or drink, registered at a European level will be given legal protection against imitation throughout the EU.

According to ADAS, the UK body responsible for handling applications made by producers, a favourable ruling under the EU Protected Food Names scheme would put the Birmingham Balti in a select group of TSGs such as Traditional Farmfresh Turkey and Traditionally Farmed Gloucestershire Old Spots Pork.

The Birmingham Balti could also join 48 other protected British specialities like Jersey Royal Potatoes, Stilton Cheese, Cornish Pasty, Cumberland Sausages and the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie, which all enjoy EU protected status.

[Related link: Ten foods that have been banned]

Across Europe, over 1,000 foods have protected status that affords them publicity, a premium and protection – including French Champagne and Parma Ham.

Speaking about the rigorous application process with Yahoo! News, Irene Bochetta, EU protected food names manager at ADAS, said: “The Birmingham Balti is a speciality, it has a certain methodology and is a well-known recipe which is why it meets the criteria of the application process.”

“But there is no way of telling whether the application will go through or not. A full consultation process can take up to two years. Then the Department for the environment and rural affairs will determine whether to forward the application to the European Commission.

“And that isn’t about Europe being bureaucratic, it’s about being thorough. It’s the real McCoy and protecting the status of a well-known recipe.”

Andy Munro, an advisor to the Asian Balti Restaurant Association, drew up the bid to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with six restaurants.

[Related article: Staines? Sorry, no, this is now Staines-upon-Thames]

He told the Birmingham Mail: “I’ve been working with a consortium of six restaurants to put the bid together. I picked six who do it the genuine way.

“We didn’t go for just Balti because that’s become a generic word for curry so we went for ‘Birmingham Balti because that’s where it all started.”

Speaking with Yahoo! News, Mr Monro said that he put in his application 12 months ago.

The application will now be subject to a 12-week consultation, ending in September, where interested parties can comment on the application.

Other British products listed with EU protected status (ADAS)

Products with protected name status fall into three categories – Traditional Speciality Guaranteed Status (TSG), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).


Kentish ale (PGI)
Kentish strong ale (PGI)
Rutland bitter (PGI)


Beacon Fell traditional Lancashire cheese (PDO)
Bonchester cheese (PDO)
Buxton blue (PDO)
Dorset Blue cheese (PGI)
Dovedale cheese (PDO)
Exmoor Blue cheese (PGI)
Single Gloucester (PDO)
Swaledale cheese (PDO)
Swaledale ewes' cheese (PDO)
Teviotdale cheese (PGI)
Stilton - White cheese (PDO)
Stilton - Blue cheese (PDO)
West Country farmhouse Cheddar cheese (PDO)
Staffordshire Cheese (PDO)


Gloucestershire cider (PGI)
Gloucestershire perry (PGI)
Herefordshire cider (PGI)
Herefordshire perry (PGI)
Worcestershire cider (PGI)
Worcestershire perry (PGI)


Cornish Clotted Cream (PDO)

Fresh fish, molluscs and crustaceans

Arbroath Smokie (PGI)
Scottish Farmed Salmon (PGI)
Whitstable Oysters (PGI)
Traditional Grimsby Smoked Fish (PGI)
Cornish Sardines (PGI)

Fresh meat and offal

Orkney beef (PDO)
Orkney lamb (PDO)
Scotch beef (PGI)
Scotch lamb (PGI)
Shetland lamb (PDO)
Welsh Beef (PGI)
Welsh lamb (PGI)
Isle of Man Manx Loaghton Lamb (PDO)
Traditional Cumberland Sausage (PGI)

Fruit, vegetables and cereals

Jersey Royal potatoes (PDO)
Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb (PDO)

Meat-based products

Melton Mowbray Pork Pie (PGI)
Cornish Pasty (PGI)