Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Origins of the word balti

One school of thought states that name 'Balti' for food may reflect the fact that an ethnic group living in that area of north Pakistan are called Balti. Alternatively, 'Balti' food is named after the pot in which it is cooked. That origin of the word is to do with the Urdu and Hindi word balty - "Balty, s. Hin. balti, which means "bucket." This is the Port. balde." [2] As mentioned in the late nineteenth century in Hobson-Jobson, the term 'balti' refers to the steel or iron pot in which the food is cooked or served, taken from the word 'balti', which is derived from the Portuguese word 'balde', meaning bucket/pail, which was taken to India by the Portuguese on their seafaring enterprises in late fifteenth century. Therefore, originally, the word 'Balti' refers to a bucket, then evolving to its meaning as a cooking pot.

According to Pat Chapman, the origins of the word can be traced back to the Pakistani area of Baltistan, in northern Pakistan, where the people cook in a cast iron wok similar to the Chinese way of cooking. (Baltistan shares a border with China). In his Curry Club Balti Curry Cookbook, Chapman states: "The balti pan is a round-bottomed, wok-like heavy cast-iron dish with two handles." He also states "The origins of Balti cooking are wide ranging and owe as much to China (with a slight resemblance to the spicy cooking of Szechuan) and Tibet as well as to the ancestry of the Mirpuris, the tastes of the Moghul emperors, the aromatic spices of Kashmir, and the 'winter foods' of lands high in the mountains."

Loyd Grossman, under whose name a range of factory-made British curry sauces is marketed, claims on his Balti sauce jar that the term comes from a word for "hubcap," since Pakistani truckers would cook their Balti in a hubcap.

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