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I've read about the Balti bowl (the cookware, not the dish). Apparently, one can cook specific recipes with it. For example, it is used to prepare a curry over intense heat. In particular, I was looking at this bowl from Le Creuset.

I have an electric stovetop so I cannot really use intense heat like from a hob. Also the bowl does not have a lid and it is probably not really stackable/nestable with other cookware. Therefore I'm wondering if it offers any other advantage over or has other noticeable differences from European pots that would justify spending that hefty amount of money and dedicated kitchen space.

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    Welcome to the site! Your question lacks focus, asking for general experience instead of something specific. You are also asking about 2 pieces of cookware which are completely different, making it even broader. I suspect this will get closed unless you narrow it down. – GdD Jan 17 '20 at 9:38
  • @GdD I see your point and updated my initial post. I'll also create a different post for the tagine. – user80612 Jan 17 '20 at 19:28
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The dish is not valuable, particularly not the one from Le Creuset. While there is a particular curry formula called Balti, the use of a Balti Bowl is largely a cosmetic touch.

First, the Balti Bowl as a specialized cooking tool has been promoted almost entirely by manufacturers; first the Birmingham Balti Bowl Co., who "re-created" the vessel, and lately by Le Creuset who has added it to their line. Further, the idea of some form of expensive cookware being authentic is laughable; according to Tripsaavy, "Restaurants in the Balti Triangle are small, friendly, family owned places with an informal atmosphere" and thus unlikely to use a 100EUR pot. Further, independent recipe sites like The Spruce Eats suggest cooking the curry in a pan and using the Balti dish just for serving.

If you were to get one, the Le Creuset seems like the worst choice. Per Birmingham: "true to tradition the Bowls are made in pressed-steel, developing the iconic black patina over time", and certainly the recipes suggest that Balti curries need to be cooked rapidly over high heat, making enameled cast iron an unsuitable material for them. There's also a 3X price difference.

Note that I am not from Birmingham, nor Pakistani, so it's possible that you'll hear from someone who is that I'm dead wrong. But if you don't, I'd say skip the specialized, single-dish cookware.

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  • Thank you for your assessment. The answers here seem to confirm my first impression that the dish is somewhat limited in its use and, in the case of Le Creuset, a bit overpriced. – user80612 Jan 17 '20 at 23:41
  • FWIW, what I generally do for foods that require specialized equipment is try to make them without it at least once. That lets me decide if the equipment is warranted, and if the dish is good enough for me to care. – FuzzyChef Jan 18 '20 at 0:53
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    Having lived in Birmingham during the glory days of Stoney Lane and the Balti Triangle, it’s effectively just a wok with side handles instead of a pan handle. In some balti houses it was clear the food had been cooked in the pot it was served in, in ‘nicer’ places you got the food in a smaller dish that was purely a serving vessel. Those were the days. – Spagirl Jan 18 '20 at 8:17
  • Looks to me like the balti is a cheaper version of the brass mini-wok used for cooking/serving at fancy restaurants in Delhi. I imagine that's how it started; immigrants to Birmingham wanted those, but they were too expensive, so they started making them out of stamped steel, which would have been cheap there in the 70's. – FuzzyChef Jan 18 '20 at 20:03
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It's a cast iron pan, it will behave like any other cast iron pan.

Le Creuset probably makes it "better" in some way (ie. maybe thicker material...), but that should not make it better than traditional ones.

From the description (google translate form german page you linked): "Dishes from the Balti Dish are also called Karahi and are very similar to wok dishes"

From what I see from videos, it is used as a deep frying pan (like a cross between a wok and a regular sautee pan).

So in most case, there are not difference or advantages to the Balti Bowl over other pans.

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    Baltic as used in Birmingham in the heyday of the balti triangle were thin steel jobs, no cast iron was ever in evidence. – Spagirl Jan 18 '20 at 8:19
  • Perhaps a Birmingham balti is different from what they have other places, but this is what I knew in the 80s in Sparkhill. thebirminghambaltibowlco.com/pages/about-us – Spagirl Jan 18 '20 at 22:57

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