The word Balti literally means ‘bucket’. Rather than a dish or single recipe, Balti is more a way of preparing food in a round-bottomed pan similar to a wok, also known as a karahi. It has been said that the style comes from an area between Pakistan and China called Baltiyul, Baltisatan or Little Tibet. Balti started out in Birmingham around the 70’s, becoming increasingly popular in the 90’s.
It is a self-contained meal served with naan and/or rice. It features a good number of peppers and coriander leaves, quickly cooked over a high heat with meat off the bone or vegetables in a sauce.
Bhuna is a method of cooking, hence the western world has adopted the name, which originating from the Bengal area of India and Bangladesh. The process is key to this dish. To start wioth the oil is be heated to a high temperature, then all the spices are added and fried, bringing the mix to a paste. As a result a strong fragrance will likely fill your kitchen. The dish itself is a mild to medium with regards to heat and its usually quite dry with very little thick sauce present.
Biryani is derived from the Persian word 'Birian'. In Farsi, Birian means 'Fried before Cooking'. Originally, rice was fried without washing in Ghee. This served two purposes: the flavours gave the rice a nutty flavour and also burned the outside starch layer, gelatinizing it in the process. After the rice is stir-fried, it is boiled in water with spices until half cooked.
The meat is then marinated in a paste with whole-milk yogurt and spices. Thereafter, the meat may be cooked in an earthen pot called ‘handi’. The rice and meat are layered with the rice forming the bottom and top layers. The handi is sealed then cooked in an oven or in coal embers. This practice can still be seen in places like Morocco.
Chaat is a term describing savory snacks, typically served at road-side tracks from stalls in India. It has become immensely popular in the rest of South Asia.
There are common elements among the chaat variants including yogurt, onions and coriander. Other ingredients include Sev (small dried yellow salty noodles); and chaat masala which typically consists of amchoor (dried mango powder), cumin, Kala Namak (rock salt), coriander, dried ginger, black pepper, and red pepper. The ingredients are combined and served on a small metal plate or a banana leaf, dried and then served in a bowl.
This is a Parsi dish, combining elements of Gujarati cuisine as well. It’s
traditionally a hot, sweet and sour dish made with mutton, lentils and vegetables which are mixed together and served with rice. Commonly the lentils are red split lentils [masoor] or pigeon peas although some restaurants will use chana daal.
Dopiaza comes from the Persian word ‘Do Piaza’ meaning ‘two onions’.
According to legend the dish was created when a courtier of Mughal emperor Akbar Mullah Do Piaza accidentally added a large quantity of onions to a dish. The dish evolved further in Hyderabad, India, and became a staple of Hyderabadi cuisine. This dish is very heavily laden with onions added at two different stages of cooking. It is usually mild and prepared with any kind of meat or fish.
Jalfrezi is an Indo-Chinese method of cooking. Some say it was a dish designed to use up leftovers. In the Hindu world this was not really done so one would assume that it is more of a British myth. Stir-fried in a hot pan, this dish would include onions, green peppers, fresh tomatoes and fresh green chilli. The flavours would explode with the hot pan and seep into the meat or fish, giving a pungent, hot carnival of flavour. Nowadays the meat or fish is freshly marinated, eliminating any leftovers. However, it’s a good dish to choose for your Christmas left-overs.
Karahi / Kadhai / Korai
The dish karahi takes its name from the pan that it is cooked in. A karahi is similar to a wok, but with steeper sides. The dish itself is similar to a Balti, but is more stew-like in its consistency and requires plenty of time to prepare. There are many variations to this dish [as with the spelling] depending on which region of India it comes from. Some of the most common versions feature a green chilli and tomato base reduced down to a relative thick sauce which has a medium-hot flavour.
The word ‘korma’ is derived from Urdu ḳormā or ḳormah, meaning ‘braise’, derived in turn from Turkish kavurma, literally meaning ‘cooked meat’.
The dish is cooked over a low heat with a combination of spices which mainly consist of cumin, coriander seeds, onions ginger and garlic. Marinated in yoghurt , kormas are slow cooked in their own juices so that the yoghurt sauce does not split. Some use saffron to flavour and colour the dish although this technique is seldom used in any restaurant.
The Madras dish takes its name from the city of Madras. The name for the dish is not used in India and is in fact a British invention which originated in its restaurants. This dish has a sour sweet fruity flavoured sauce, made from tamarind especially for this purpose. It is often laden with red chilli powder or paprika for the red colour, depending on the heat required for the dish.
Mughlai/ Mughal/ Moghul Masala
There is no particular style of moghlai cuisine. Like its language, Moghlai cuisine was adapted by the Turks and Persians during the middle ages and evolved into some of most aromatic dishes prepared by Indian chefs.
Dishes include various Kebabs, Kofta (meatballs), Nihari, Pulao (a.k.a. Pilaf in Central Asia), and Biryani. Paneer is used for preparing vegetarian dishes to suit vegetarian dietary requirements. A dish with the name ‘Shahi’ (Royal) is an indicator of its mughlai origins.
Pasanda derived from the word ‘Pasande’ which is Urdu for favourite. During the Mughal era, the dish was always made from the best cut of lamb.
It would be cut in to thin strips and tenderised, then marinated in yoghurt and spices [cardamom, peppercorns, cumin, chilli and garlic] and garnished with tomatoes. In some cases the dish is garnished with almonds – a method known as ‘Badaam Pasanda’
Modern versions are made with any available meat fish or prawns. Pasanda also refers to a mild curry sauce made with cream, coconut milk, and almonds.
Pathia is a Persian dish, served only on special occasions such as weddings and births. It still remains particularly popular with the Parsi population within India, who migrated from Persia many centuries ago, settling in the area of Gujarat.
Unlike most other dishes, pathia has a tomato base and is sweet and sour. The sweetness comes from limes and cane sugar. The heat comes from fresh green chillies and chilli powder. Being such a versatile sauce, any meat or fish can be added once the base is prepared.
This dish became popular as a starter, but has now earned its rightful place as a main course.
Rogan Josh is the signature dish of Kashmir, brought over by the Moghuls and adapted by the Persians. Traditionally this is not a hot dish, as the chillies used are called ‘Kashmiri’ - this dish has become a staple of the British restaurant.
There are variations where some regions or sects will not use onions and garlic. It consists of braised lamb chunks cooked with a gravy based on browned onions or shallots, yogurt, garlic, ginger and aromatic spices, cloves, bay leaves, cardamom and cinnamon.
Saag is a classic spinach dish with a number of variations. The most notable include ‘sarson ka saag’ and the regular saag you will get in a restaurant. Sarson ka saag is a classic Punjabi recipe which you will not find in any restaurant. Its preparation requires a lengthy cooking process which takes several hours and is purely vegetarian, featuring a selection of palak, mustard leaves and Bathua (chenopodium album weed). Saag is generally made from palak which is mature fully grown spinach leaves. Today restaurants will offer saag mixed with some protein i.e. Chicken, lamb or paneer. The restaurant style is usually fried or made in the bhuna method and is of a mild heat but spicy.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken Tikka Masala features chunks of chicken marinated in spices and yogurt, which is baked in a tandoor oven and served in a masala sauce. A tomato and coriander sauce is common, but there is no standard recipe for chicken tikka masala. A survey found that of 48 different recipes, the only common ingredient was chicken. The sauce usually includes tomatoes which are usually puréed, cream, coconut cream and various spices. The origins of this dish are widely debated althought it is undoubtedly a very British invention.
The Vindaloo was originally a Portuguese dish which took its name from the two main ingredients: ‘vinho’ (wine/wine vinegar), and ‘alhos’ (garlic). Over time it was spiced up and altered by the indigenous peoples of the ex-Portuguese colony of Goa. Not many restaurants produce an authentic Goan vindaloo not least because the pork used by Christian Goans in their recipe would not be acceptable to Muslim chefs. In some restaurants the vindaloo is just a pumped-up madras i.e. the same recipe but with a lot more chilli powder. Other restaurants have interpreted the ‘aloo’ part of the name as meaning potato and introduced diced potato to a hot standard curry with added lemon juice for tartness and black pepper for extra pungency. Very hot.