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Letter of the week

The return of an old feature - letter of the week.  And, no, it's not my old friend Simon Patkin demonstrating his sharp intellect.  Instead, it's this gem from today's paper:

Put him in the curry

Writing from outer Sai Kung, Keith Noyes ("Food for thought", June 30) laments Chinese not trying western food while noting that Chinese restaurants are ubiquitous around the western world.

But where are they in China and Hong Kong? I have searched in vain for such delicacies as chicken chop suey, crispy chow mein and sweet and sour pork.

I have little choice, so I'm off to have a balti.

JEREMY M. BARR, Kowloon

If you're not familiar with balti, it is a delicacy invented in the Sparkbrook area of Birmingham and served in the many Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi restaurants in that part of the world from the late 1970's onwards.  Balti literally means pot, and the restaurants (or 'Balti houses') tended to be very simple places with no licence to serve alcohol (meaning that a trip to a nearby off-licence was part of the whole 'Ladypool Road' experience).  Then the humble balti started to spread away from the West Midlands and appeared on menus in "Indian" restaurants throughout the UK.

However, anyone visiting a restaurant in India and asking for a Chicken Balti and a family-sized naan would be met with the same reaction that greets a visitor to Hong Kong who requests sweet and sour pork balls or many of the other delicacies that are the mainstay of neighbourhood Chinese take-aways in the UK. 

Hence the letter.