Taste Birmingham's Rich Food Heritage

Birmingham cooking came into the spotlight with baker Ali Imdad’s appearances on GBBO, but what about Brum’s food history?

As a centre for commerce and working life, the area has a rich culinary background, complete with a wealth of local specialities that can still be found in cafés and restaurants today.

Book a room at our Travelodge Birmingham and treat yourself to an alternative foodie break in the Black Country.

Pork scratchings and a pint

Midland treat. Photo © JamieRogers1

1. Faggots

Also known as savoury ducks, faggots are perhaps the most famous example of old-school Brummie cuisine. But over the last few years the humble faggot has undergone a bit of a hipster revival and is now found on menus around the country.

Traditionally the dish was made using cuts of discarded meat and offal to make a cheap, filling meal for factory workers. The meat is usually wrapped in a coat of breadcrumbs and onions and is usually served in a deep dish with peas and gravy.

You can find faggots in many pubs in the city centre and surrounding areas. The Bull on Price’s Street is particularly recommended.

2. Groaty Pudding

This rich and hearty meat stew is made using soaked groats (husks of various grains including wheat, barley and oats), leeks and onions all cooked up overnight in a rich beef stock to create a dark, porridge-like meal.

Miners used to dry out their groaty pudding and carry it as a form of early cereal bar. It’s particularly popular as a winter warmer on a cold evening and has a long history of being eaten on Guy Fawkes night.

3. Shrewsbury cakes

Originating in nearby Shrewsbury and quickly adopted by locals in Birmingham, these traditional desserts are a cross between a cake and a biscuit, and have some similarity with shortbread.

Shortbread rounds on napkin

Shrewsbury cakes. Photo © etienne voss

Many recipes include dried fruits and a touch of lemon zest for added kick, and you can also add a touch of rosewater or a handful of caraway seeds for extra flavour.

Several recipes for Shrewsbury cakes that date back to the 18th and 19th century have been found, although references to the cakes appear in literature and manuscripts long before that.

4. Birmingham Balti

Birmingham cuisine has a distinct international flavour thanks to the city’s rich heritage. Some historians disagree, but local legend has it that the Pakistani-style balti dish was invented here by immigrants from the Baltistan region.

Butter curry in a balti dish

It’s all in the dish. Photo © rez-art

The main identifying factor for a balti is the dish in which it’s made. A balti dish is a large steel or iron dish in which the food is cooked.

Sure, you can find balti in restaurants around the country, but in Birmingham the ‘balti houses’ have become a local institution. For a true local experience head to the so-called Balti Triangle, a row of balti houses clustered along Ladypool Road, Stoney Lane and Stratford Road.

5. Pork scratchings

Pork scratchings are a well-known bar snack across the UK, but they originated as a local speciality in the Black Country.

Factory workers used to keep their own pigs as a source of meat, and from the need to use every part of the pig, the pork scratching was invented. Simply put, it’s the skin or rind of the pig which is fried or roasted in its own fat. You can make your own pork scratchings at home, or for a fine-dining take on the dish head to Purnell’s on Cornwall Street, not far from our Travelodge Birmingham Central Moor Street.