South Asian Pickles
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Aachaar, South Asian pickles or pickles of the Indian subcontinent are made from certain varieties of vegetables and fruits - finely chopped and marinated in brine or edible oils along with various Indian spices. Some varieties of fruits and vegetables are small enough to be used whole. Some geographic regions specialize in pickling meats and fish.
The most common South Asian-style pickles are made from mango and lime. Others include cauliflower, carrot, radish, tomato, onion, pumpkin, palm heart, lotus stem, rose petals, ginger, Amla, garlic, green or red chili peppers, kohlrabi, cordia, kerda, purple yam, karonda, bitter gourd, jackfruit, mushroom, eggplant, cucumber, turnip and lapsi.
Homemade pickles are prepared in the summer and are matured by exposing to sunlight for up to two weeks.  The pickle is kept covered with muslin while it is maturing. The high concentrations of salt, oil, and spices act as preservatives. Many commercially produced pickles use preservatives like citric acid and sodium benzoate.
The regional terms for pickles vary with language all over the subcontinent. The term for pickles in Hindi, Urdu, Assamese, Bengali, Sindhi and Punjabi is Achaar (pronounced achār), and written in their respective scripts as अचार, اچار, আচাৰ, آچار/ کٽو, আচার and ਅਚਾਰ. The names for specific pickles can generally be obtained by prefixing the name of the main ingredient to achaar, such as nimbu ka achaar (lemon achaar). In Tamil, the generic term for all pickles is oorugaai(ஊறுகாய்), while certain individual pickles may be addressed with other terms (such as thokku or aavakai) depending on preparation techniques. In Telugu, Kannada and Tulu, pickles are called Ooragaya / Pachadi (ఊరగాయ / పచ్చడి), uppinakaayi (ಉಪ್ಪಿನಕಾಯಿ) and uppad respectively. The Malayalam word for pickles is pronounced as 'uppillittuthu'(അച്ചാര്), each type of pickle being given its own name, such as maanga acharu for mango pickle and inji acharu for ginger pickle. The Marathi, Konkani and Gujarati words for pickles are lonache (लोणचे), adgai and athāṇũ (અથાણું) respectively.
Even using the same main ingredients, Indian pickles come in a wide variety of flavors due to differences in the spices used and preparation techniques. A mango pickle from South India may taste very different from one made in North India. In the southern states, sesame oil is generally preferred, while mustard oil is generally preferred in northern states for making pickles.
In South India, most vegetables are sun-dried with spices into a thokku or pickle, taking advantage of immensely hot and sunny days throughout the year, thus making pickles an everyday staple. The sun-drying naturally preserves the vegetable, along with the spices. Vegetables that may be sun-dried and pickled include amla (gooseberry), unripe mango, lime, lemon, citron, garlic, ginger, chillies, tomatoes, onions, gongura, combinations of these, and less commonly unripe black pepper (while it is still green on the vine), coriander, brinjal (eggplant), bitter gourd and any other vegetable in plentiful harvest. Commonly used spices include mustard, methi or the seeds of fenugreek, chilli powder, salt, asafoetida and turmeric. To prepare quickly however, vegetables may be cooked on stove top and additional preservatives like vinegar, sodium benzoate or citric acid may be used.
Tamil Nadu State has a typical mango pickle, maavadu, which is usually made early in the summer season when mangoes are barely an inch long. The preservation process uses castor oil giving the pickle its unique taste. Another pickle from Tamil Nadu is narthangai consisting of unripe citrons cut into spirals and stuffed with salt. Tamilians also sun-dry chillies stuffed with salted yogurt, making a dry condiment called mor molagai that is typically eaten with rice.
Tender whole mango pickle is a traditional pickle recipes of Karnataka. This is preserved entirely by dehydrating tender whole mango with salt and is very salty and sour. A special type of this is jeerige midi (ಜೀರಿಗೆ ಮಿಡಿ) prepared using special tender mango with a refreshing aroma.
South Indians also pickle fish which they have access to along the country's long coasts and rivers. Along the coasts of Tamil Nadu, karuvadu is made by salting and sun-drying various species of fish. Nethili karuvadu, made from anchovies, is among the more popular varieties of karuvadu. In Kerala, fish (such as tuna, sardines) are finely chopped and marinated in spices and later cooked on stovetop, resulting in meen achar.
Unripe mangoes, lemon, green chilis, gunda (cordia) and kerda are commonly used as key ingredients in Gujarati cuisine. Varieties of pickled mango commonly found in Gujarati households include salted mango pickle made with groundnut oil and spiced with fenugreek seeds, and red chili powder; hot and sweet mango pickle made with groundnut oil and jaggery, fennel seeds, dry dates (kharek), mustard and red chili powder; and hot and sweet mango pickle made with sugar syrup, cumin and chili powder.
Following is a partial list of Pakistani pickles:
- carrot achar
- cauliflower achar
- garlic achar
- green chilli achar
- Hyderabadi pickle
- lemon achar
- mango achar
- mixed vegetable achar
In South Africa, Indian pickles are called atchar, and are sometimes eaten with bread. The Burmese word for pickle is သနပ် (thanat). Mango pickle (သရက်သီးသနပ်) (thayet thi thanat) is commonly used as a condiment alongside curries and biryani in Burmese cuisine. In Mozambique, lemon and mango achar is widely eaten and is used on the side for many dishes. Brought over from the Indo-Portuguese cuisine, it infused with the local dishes.
Pickles made by traditional methods contain Lactobacillus, produced by fermentation in brine (salt and water). Pickles made using vinegar do not contain Lactobacillus. Lactobacillus makes traditional pickles probiotic. Supermarket pickles which are not home-made are generally not fermented but preserved in vinegar, and thus don't have the probiotic, enzymatic value of home-made fermented pickles. Vinegar however can help lower blood sugar levels by reducing the breakdown of carbohydrates so the carbs are absorbed less and not all converted to sugar.
South Asian pickles are high in salt and preserved in oil or vinegar. Regular consumption of pickles can lead to high sodium levels in the body, which is not good for people with hypertension nor for calcium absorption. Pickle oils contain unsaturated fats, which should be consumed in moderation, or trans fats, which are bad for cardiovascular health.
The nutritional value of fruits and vegetables in pickles is low, as the process of drying pickles in sunlight causes nutrient loss.
- Navya Malini (10 August 2013). "Recipe: Sweet and sour berry pickle".
- Pickling in the hot sun
- Mango pickle recipe