Most of this spicy activity was located around three grimy inner city streets - the busy A34 Stratford Road and behind it Stoney Lane and Ladypool Road.
The area was a genuine melting pot - a meld of working class Brummies, Asians of course, Irish immigrants, a large African Caribbean community, and out of towners packing the narrow streets in their 4x4's coming to see what all the fuss was about.
Back then, Sparkbrook was still bedsitterland too - a cheaper, downmarket alternative to still-bohemian Moseley which was just a short walk up Church Road. In the balti houses, aspiring rock stars rubbed shoulders with bankers from Solihull - all the while living (if only for the duration of a curry) in an authetic cross cultural bubble.
Rows about the origin and authenticity of the balti were neither here nor there - this was our folk food, and we loved it, in all its sloppy, coriander-garnished glory. As bagels were to New York, so the balti was to Brum.
That was then - this is now. Tonight I went to pay my respects to a veteran of the scene which is finally hanging up its naan bread after 43 years. On November 2, Saleems on Ladypool Road will be shutting its doors for the final time, leaving barely half a dozen survivors from the original balti belt.
The owner - the thoroughly amiable Waheed Saleem - tells me the business just isn't there any more. Ladypool Road has become a centre of the Asian wedding trade, and though the clothes shops attract visitors from far and wide, their clientele are more likely to shop at the proliferating kebab shops and takeaway joints. There's more competition from chains too - Ladypool Road has a Dixy Chicken and a Fargo.
My own observation is that Sparkbrook has become markedly less cosmopolitan since the boom years. The Irish and the the Jamaicans haven't entirely disappeared but they have become "lesser spotted", as the Pakistani Muslim community has grown in their stead. Students now seem thinner on the ground too. There's just one pub clinging on for dear life, where once there were four.
Perhaps the simple truth is that most of us probably just don't need to go there anymore. One of my local high streets, Stirchley, has about a dozen balti houses or "Indian" restaurants in the budget or mid-price range, copying or expanding on the Sparkbrook formula. The Black Country has its own equivalent of the old Balti Triangle in the town of Lye.
The curry has traded up too - we got to understand the basics in the Balti Belt, now we can taste the really good stuff at Lasan, Asha's or Saffron in Oldbury.
For what it's worth, the survivors in Sparkbrook - including Imran's, Dawat, Al Fraish and Shabab - all have plenty to recommend them. They wouldn't have survived this long if they didn't. But the Balti Belt as we knew it has pretty much gone, having spawned numerous imitators across the West Midlands and beyond - becoming, ultimately, a victim of its own success.