Chicken balti

Chicken balti

The Curry Guy

Almost any curry can be cooked as a balti. At Shababs, in Birmingham, they seem to have hundreds of combinations that can be ordered. The restaurant was packed when I visited with friend and balti historian Andy Munro. He commented that making baltis correctly was probably best left to the professionals, and after watching chef-owner Zafar Hussain cook a few, I could understand why. Don’t let that stop you from making this one, though!

Authentic baltis are cooked over a high gas flame that is much hotter than is possible on most conventional hobs. As they are cooked, the whole pan turns into a big ball of fire as the oil catches light. You might think that this would burn the other ingredients but it doesn’t. Only the oil is burned off, making the balti healthier and adding a delicious smoking flavour. When they place those sizzling hot curries in front of you, you know you’re in for something special.

Cook it in a large, one-serving balti pan just like at Shababs! A good frying pan can be substituted.


Quantity Ingredient
3 tablespoons rapeseed oil
or seasoned oil
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 green pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 tablespoon Garlic and ginger paste
1 tablespoon Green chilli paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
250ml Base curry sauce (large batch), heated
200g skinless chicken breast or thigh meat, cut into small pieces (tikka)
1 tablespoon Garam masala
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek (methi) leaves
chopped coriander, to serve


  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan (or wok, karahi or balti pan) over a high heat until almost smoking. Add the onion, pepper and tomato, and fry for about a minute. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and chilli paste. The oil will sizzle as they release their moisture.
  2. If you’re feeling brave and have a gas hob, tilt the pan towards the flame and see if you can get the oil to catch fire. Don’t panic if it lights, and never throw water on the flame or you will probably have to call the fire service and may need a new kitchen.
  3. Add the ground spices and 5 tbsp of the base curry sauce. Let this come to a boil then add the chicken pieces and another 5 tbsp of the base sauce. Stir occasionally so that the sauce doesn’t catch, and scrape the caramelized sauce from the sides of the pan.
  4. Pour in the remaining base sauce and let the curry simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is quite thick. Baltis are usually served with fresh naans or chapatis, which are used to soak up the sauce and meat instead of cutlery, and your sauce needs to be thick enough to do this.
  5. To finish, stir in the garam masala and dried fenugreek leaves and check for seasoning. If there is any oil on the surface, skim it off for a healthier curry. Top with chopped coriander to serve.
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