Birmingham’s beloved balti could become then next ‘British’ food to have its name protected under European legislation.
Following in the footsteps of Champagne, Parma ham and Melton Mowbray pork pies, the spicy curry dish now qualifies to apply for this special status - as foods that originates from a particular area can apply for protection.
But restaurateurs in the city’s Balti Triangle argue the dish really orginates from Pakistan, not Birmingham.
If a food is given protected name status, products of the same ilk made outside that area cannot use that place name.
Legislation introducing the European Union Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) stamp was passed in 1992, which states that foods traditionally linked to a region can only be labelled as such if they come from those particular areas.
Melton Mowbray pork pies, based on a traditional Leicestershire recipe, are the latest to join this exclusive club of culinary "classics".
Dr Matthew O’Callaghan, a Leicestershire county councillor who helped to confer the special protection on Melton Mowbray’s pork pies, now hopes to get the same status for the city’s favourite curry.
He said: "The first written record of the Birmingham Balti dates from 1984, although it was being produced on the Ladypool Road long before that date.
"While it has its roots in Pakistan, I believe it is still fair to say the balti as it is known today originated in Birmingham, when the first wave of immigrants from Pakistan arrived in the city.
"Red Leicester cheese is an example of how local production can make make an existing product different, as this was originally a Cheddar which was adapted to suit local production techniques and ingredients. So in that way, the balti is no different.
"The balti is one of many foods that will be featured in a new British Food Directory, so protecting it’s name should be paramount for local businesses."
However Akhtar Chaudary, proprietor of the Lahore Buffet in Ladypool Road, at the heart of Birmingham’s balti triangle, believes the city has no claim to the dish.
"The balti was not invented in Birmingham, it was brought over from Pakistan when our parents’ generation came over to England, so it would not be right to claim it as our own," he said.
"There’s no reason to say we can’t try, but I think some people will always disagree with that.
"Birmingham has the biggest Pakistani community outside Pakistan, so it’s no surprise that it’s become known for its balti restaurants as there are more here than anywhere else in the world. But, personally, I don’t think that makes it British or Brummie."
However Dr O’Callaghan, who studied and worked at Birmingham University between 1971 and 1988, said: "I used to live near the Ladypool Road, so I was a regular sampler of the local cuisine.
"And curries feature in the English diet a lot earlier than people realise - it is first mentioned in The Form of Curry published in 1390, which was written by a master cook in Richard II’s court."
While the EU law seeks to protect authentic food stuffs, it has been challenged by supermarkets including Asda, who described the ruling on Parma ham in May 2003 was "barmy".
An Asda spokesman claimed the European Court had been duped by Parma’s producers' "ham-fisted attempts to push up the price of their products."
The supermarket lost its battle to sell authentic Parma ham under that name, when it is sliced and pre-packed in Britain.
Although it no longer slices and packages Parma ham in Britain - having moved production back to Italy - Asda can still slice and sell Parma ham, and sell it as such, on its deli counters.