Balti bliss

· culture ·

I had a wonderful balti with some friends from work yesterday evening, but I'm still recovering from the enormous quantities of naan we collectively consumed. The balti house we go to in Selly Oak is a brilliant, friendly, low-key place, and does gigantic 'table' naans with which to scoop up your balti. Before I'd seen one, I assumed that the name came from the fact that you could share it with your table, but I quickly realised that it is because it is the size of a table. The waiters carry it out on two plates held side by side, but it still hangs right over the edges like a delicious, steaming, edible tablecloth. We made the classic balti house error of thinking that we'd need two of these giants between 6 people, but they were so wonderful (particularly the coriander naan), that we ended up eating it all.

I'm a real balti convert. They are very easy-going, comforting places. They are generally small, very simply decorated and offer good, cheap food. Most don't have an alcohol licence, but they are very happy for you to buy wine or beer from an off-licence and bring it in, and they don't charge corkage. There are always hundreds of different baltis on the menu, but since they all follow the same balti template (meat/fish/vegetables/paneer in sauce) and come in the same iron pan, it feels very egalitarian. The dishes differ a bit in their spicing or components, and you can usually ask for other ingredients to be added if you like, but you can be pretty confident that you'll enjoy what you get. And sharing a naan the size of a table is always fun.