The unknown story of the complexly flavored Indian pickle
One can hardly ever imagine of an Indian platter without a spoonful of pickle in it, be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian meals.
Pickle adds a tangy, sweet, and salty heat, whether on its own as a side dish or when paired with rice, stews, or even layers of flatbread called paratha.
But, how many of us know how this condiment with a fusion of tastes seeped into Indian culinary?
Well…Interestingly, the world’s oldest known case of pickling is deeply connected with India!
Cucumbers that are native to India grew wildly in the foothills of Himalayas, which were carried to Mesapotamia and first pickled in BCE 2030 in the Tigris Valley.
In fact pickles have been mentioned in some of the earliest texts of the Indian civilization.
The tradition of achaar preparation is mentioned in the Kannada text Lingapurana of Gurulinga Desika that dates back to 1594 CE. In this text, there is a mention of about more than fifty kinds of pickles.
The word ‘achar’ has also been mentioned in CE 1563, in works of Garcia da Orta, a Portuguese physician, describing a conserve of cashew with salt which he refers to as Achar.
In another mention is in the work Sivatattvaratnakara, an encyclopedia of the king of Keladi, Basavaraja belonging to the 17th century.
In fact, the presence of the pickle is so all pervading that the well-known food historian KT Acharya mentions pickles as a kind of food that were cooked without fire in his book ‘A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food'.
Known by various names such as Uppinakaayi in Kannada, Pachadi in Telgu, Urukai in Tamil, Uppillittuthu in Malayalam, Loncha in Marathi, Athanu in Gujarati and Achar in Hindi, the tradition of pickle making goes back thousands of years in India.
According to Indian food traditions, almost anything can be preserved through pickling, from fruits, vegetables, berries, leaves, roots to even meats. There are several popular pickle flavours that are highly sought after in the country including limes, green chillies, ginger, carrots, gooseberries and even fish.
There are 3 main types of pickling: preserving in vinegar, preserving in brine or salt and preserving in oil. Indian pickles today are a mix of all three varieties, with different types of aromatic and flavored oils being used for preservation, varying from region to region like mustard oil being a popular medium used in Northern India, whereas sesame oil is preferred in the south for its more subtle flavor.
However, despite a plethora of pickle varieties, by far the most popular flavor across the country is the mango pickle fondly known, "aam ka achaar".
Pickles are a must add, for most of us when we eat a good wholesome Indian meal for that added zing.
From sour and sweet, to tangy and spicy- the Indian pickle is surely a fusion of tastes that any Indian meal cannot be completed without.
The flavour packed punch offered by pickle clears the palate and adds a touch of complexity to an otherwise boring dish.
So come enjoy our Indian platters at Aahaar with authentic flavored pickles to revisit your past with every meal.