Pickling is an ancient practice that is believed to have originated in India and, you will find a plethora of pickles across the country.
Indian cuisine is a diverse mix of sweet, sour, and spicy flavours. However, the penchant for hot and fiery food in India is pretty well-known. To add to this, there are plenty of condiments that are paired with the food to add to the overall experience of the dish. One popular condiment is pickle (or achaar in Hindi). Almost all vegetables and fruits you can think of, are dunked into a bottle of achaar but to enhance the spiciness (rewrite), chilli pickles are often found in the corner of the kitchen. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the Indian cuisine has varieties of chilli pickles, given the fact that it is home to the hottest chilli in the world, called the Bhut Jolokia.
From red to green, several chillies are dried out and preserved in oil so that they attain a certain tanginess along with the spice. Did you know that pickling started around 4,000 years ago and it was Mesopotamia that has been credited with beginning this practice around 2034 BCE? While the word pickle has a Dutch origin which means brine, achar is believed to have Persian roots, referring to meats, fruits and vegetables that were preserved using honey, vinegar or salt. In India, the most commonly-used method of pickling involves the use of oils, giving us delicious raw mango pickle, lemon pickle and, of course, the hot and happening chilli pickles.
Here are some of the chilli pickles (or mirchi ka achaar) from the Indian fare that you can try.
1. Gajar Mirchi Achaar
Made with carrots and green chillies, the gajar mirchi ka achaar is a great mix of spices and vegetables. The slit green chillies are added to a mix of peeled and sliced carrots. A powdered blend of fennel seeds, cumin and fenugreek is dry-roasted and added to the green chillies and carrots. Some peeled juliennes of ginger are also tossed in with salt, red chilli powder and turmeric. All this is cooked in oil and spruced with some lemon juice at the end. Stored in an air-tight container, the pickle can be eaten with roti, parathas, and other food items.
2. Karonde Mirch Achaar
Karonde or natal plum is a great option when it comes to pickles. While this vegetable is also pickled with raw mango, the karonda and mirchi combination works wonders. In this achaar, green chillies are used along with kalonji, turmeric, red chilli powder, and asafoetida. All these are tossed together in mustard oil, lending the pickle a distinct aroma.
3. Moti Lal Mirch Achaar
The thick and spicy red chillies that you often see in the market are mostly used for making pickles. To begin the preparation, the mustard seeds are soaked in vinegar for a couple of hours while the red chillies are cut into smaller pieces. These chillies are then added to a pan with oil and onion seeds. The mustard seed mixture is poured in and it is cooked together for a few minutes. Seasoned with salt, lemon juice and turmeric powder, the pickle is packed in a sealed jar for future use.
4. Stuffed Chilli Pickle
In this, you need the big green chillies. They are slit from the centre and filled with a spicy mixture. Firstly, besan is dry-roasted in a pan and then this is added to a mixture of amchur, salt, hing, saunf, and turmeric powder. This is then stuffed into the chillies which are sautéed in a pan of oil for a few minutes. After this, your spicy stuffed chilli pickle is ready to be devoured.
5. Garlic Chilli Pickle
This is a quick and easy pickle, made with garlic and red chillies. The red chillies are cut into smaller pieces while the masala is prepared. Seeds and spices are tossed on an iron griddle after which a powder of the same is prepared with salt. The masala is spread on the base of the jar and the chillies are layered on it. This is done repeatedly to fill the jar. Once done, it is tied with a muslin cloth and kept in sunlight for a few days to ferment.