You can make this chicken balti from scratch in no time!
As you can see from the publication date of this chicken Balti recipe, I wrote it quite a few years ago. I recently revisited the recipe as I often do.
I’ve learned a lot over the years messing about in my kitchen and wanted to give you my updated version.
This chicken Balti was actually one of the first curry house/Balti house recipes I learned while doing recipe research.
I remember very well walking into the restaurant kitchen in Birmingham’s Balti triangle to see how it was done and being a bit disappointed.
This is how chicken baltis were first made.
Not that I didn’t like the chicken Balti that was served to me that day! I loved it. So perhaps I should explain…
The chef that day decided to show me his balti recipe from scratch. Although he used a base sauce for his baltis and added pre-cooked tandoori chicken to the baltis that he served in the restaurant, he thought he should break it down for me.
In hindsight, this was a great idea.
I wanted to learn the actual chicken balti recipe from the restaurant but he assumed I didn’t know what that ‘secret’ base sauce recipe was all about.
He also thought that many of my readers would not want to make a base sauce before starting cooking.
He was right there!
The base sauce…
The curry house base sauce was developed for speed and economy. The thing is, it also makes the curry delicious.
Rather than frying up a large amount of onion and tomatoes and adding water as is done in the following recipe, base sauce is added instead.
This is not only faster but also gives the chicken balti and completely different flavour and a smoother texture.
Many people prefer this chicken balti cooked from scratch. There is a lot less prep work to do and it does taste amazing.
What exactly is a Balti?
Balti curries first became popular in the 70s and 80s.
At the time, many Pakistani run restaurants were finding it difficult to compete with the Bangladeshi run restaurants across town.
These Pakistani restaurants were serving their own neighbourhoods but few others.
The Bangladeshi restaurant chefs were dishing up delicious chicken tikka masalas, Madras and vindaloo curries but the authentic Pakistani curries served at Pakistani restaurants needed forward planning and took a lot longer to get out to the table.
The idea of using small stainless steel pans (Balti Bowls) instead of the more authentic cast iron karahis changed all this. Special Balti bowls were produced the first time.
The hot Balti curries were cooked over high heat and served in the same bowls they were cooked in. The stainless steel pans heated up much faster than cast iron so service was much faster too.
Unfortunately, the company that produced all those Balti bowls went out of business and the manufacture of the bowls was sourced out to India and China.
These imported Balti bowls were inferior in quality and eventually, the Balti craze and the pans became far less popular.
The good news is, the original Balti pans are now, once again produced in the UK and the popularity of authentic Baltis is again on the increase. A true Balti needs to be cooked in a stainless steel Balti pan and served in it, sizzling hot too!
Nowadays, most restaurant chefs cook their ‘Baltis’ in a normal frying pan and then serve them in an ornamental balti bowl but this, thankfully is changing.
Why should you try this chicken Balti recipe?
The original recipe on this page wasn’t cooked in a balti bowl so it really wasn’t a Balti. It also served 4 which again, just isn’t what Balti cooking is all about.
Here I have downsized the recipe and shown it cooked in an authentic stainless steel Balti bowl. I hope you give it a try but if you would like to make a Balti using the base sauce and pre-cooked meat, you should do that too.
If you would like to try an authentic Balti using a base curry sauce, pre-cooked marinated meat and special spices just like those at the best Balti houses, try my much more recent chicken, mushroom, chickpea, chilli and garlic Balti recipe here.
I think you’ll love them both.
Step by Step Photos
Add oil to the hot pan. About 2 – 3 tbsp should do.
When you stir all these ingredients together, you have what is called a base masala.
That is the base of your sauce. It is what you do instead of adding base sauce. Adding base sauce, if you have it is a quicker option. It is also my preferred way to cook a Balti.
Balti cooking tips
When you first start cooking baltis, you should cook over medium high heat. That is until you get used to cooking in the small stainless steel Balti bowl which gets really hot fast.
After you’ve made a few Baltis, you can and should turn the heat up. The sauce will caramelise around the edges of the bowl which adds amazing flavour.
Scrape the caramelised sauce back in for flavour.
Never fill your Balti bowl more than 2/3 of the way up. The curry will cook better if your pan isn’t full to the rim.
Plus, this is a curry to serve one to two people so filling it to the rim would be a bit much.
Any more advice?
Yes. Have a kitchen towel nearby.
The balti pan will get very hot. Too hot to handle.
I have seen Baltis on fire when Balti chefs cook. How and why is that done?
Many chefs say they do this to burn off the excess oil. Personally, I think it is more for show.
If you want to do that, it usually happens when the garlic and ginger paste are added to the oil. There is moisture in the paste that flares up when it hits the flaming hot oil.
Doing this would be difficult with this recipe but if you want to give it a try, you should try my authentic balti with base sauce here.
- 2 tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil or ghee
- 1/2 large onion finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic - finely chopped
- 1/2 inch piece of ginger - grated and finely chopped
- 2 fresh green bird's eye chilli peppers
- 1/2 large green or red pepper roughly chopped
- 1 tomato - diced
- 2 - 4 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 tbs tandoori masala - good quality store bought or homemade
- 2 tsp Madras curry powder
- 225g (1/2 lb) - skinned and cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) chunks
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp chopped coriander
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- Salt to taste
- Heat the ghee or oil in a large frying pan or balti pan over high heat.
- Toss in the chopped onion and allow to fry for about 5 minutes or until the onion is beginning to turn soft and translucent.
- Add the garlic and ginger and stir to combine. About 30 seconds should do the job. You just want to cook off the rawness.
- Spoon in the tandoori masala and curry powder.
- Now add the green chillies, bell peppers, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree. Give this all a good stir to combine.
- Throw in the chicken pieces and brown this in the onion mixture. Stir continuously to brown the chicken evenly.
- Now add about (1/2 cup) 125ml of water. You can add more to assist in cooking the chicken but Baltis are dry curries so try not to add too much.
- Simmer for about 8 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Add the cider vinegar and simmer for another minute.
- Just before serving, sprinkle the coriander into the curry and season with salt and pepper to taste and then add the lime juice.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 304Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 33mgSodium: 402mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 7gSugar: 25gProtein: 5g