Since my first samosa with the sweet and sour Tamarind chutney in my childhood, I have been addicted to the chutneys as a part of my meal. In my opinion, no meal is complete without a tangy and savoury but a little sweet chutney. Be it tomato sauce, tomato chutney, Jalepeno dip… you name it and I would have tried it somewhere and somehow. Having grown up in true-blue Punjabi household, the mint and garlic chutney, the mint youghurt dip along with paranthas mercilessly drowned in desi ghee (clarified butter), with lassi (yoghurt drink) and mango pickle were permanent fixtures on our dining table. I have spent countless hours on my treadmill to the counter the effects of my grandmother’s culinary obsessions and indulgence over her grandchildren. Nevertheless, the savoury snack with a spicy chutney still wets my salivary glands. My column, this time, is dedicated to my childhood love: chutneys.
What is a chutney, after all? A spicy condiment made of chopped fruits or vegetables, cooked in vinegar and sugar with ginger and spices or herbs—reparation (a sauce or relish or spice) to enhance flavour. It makes whatever you eat more enjoyable, transforming a simple meal into a feast of sorts. To top it all, ingredients like the herbs, lemon and ginger in chutney activates your metabolism and enhances your digestive system. Chutney is a loan word incorporated into English from Hindi, describing a pasty sauce in south Asian cuisines. It is a term for a class of spicy preparations used as an accompaniment for a main dish. Chutneys usually contain an idiosyncratic but complementary spice and vegetable mix.
Chutneys are wet or dry, with a coarse to fine texture. In the past, they were ground with a mortar and pestle made of stone or an ammikkal (Tamil). Nowadays, electric blenders have replaced the stone implements. Various spices are added and ground, usually in a particular order.Beginning in the 17th century, chutneys were shipped to European countries like England and France as luxury goods. Western imitations were called “mangoed” fruits or vegetables. By the 19th century, many European brands of chutney were sold over the grocery stores and super markets, making it a billion-pound business.
Chutneys by Indian region
There are specific chutneys to Indian regions, depending upon the raw material availability and palate of people.
Assam—coriander, spinach, tomato, curry leaf, chilli, radish, carrot, beetroot, cucumber, lentil, chickpea, and ghost chilli chutneys.
Andhra Pradesh—coconut, coriander, red chilli with grams, tomato, onion, peanut, lemon, curry leaf, tamarind, green chilli, ginger, pudina (mint), and mango chutneys
Gujarat—hot lime chutneys
Himachal Pradesh—guava and egg plant chutneys
Karnataka—coconut, peanut, tomato, tamarind, mango, urad dal (lentil), mint, heeray kayi (ridge gourd), uchellu (niger seeds), bende kaayi (lady finger), ginger.
Kerela—coconut, pudina, urad dal,
mango, dry fish, shrimp, and onion chutney
Maharashtra—hot, raw mango chutney, guramba, panchamrit, mirachicha thecha. Dry chutneys made with Javas (flax seeds), Solapuri Shenga (peanut), red chili powder chutney.
Orissa—dhania (cilantro), pudina,
coconut, mango , orange, tomato, dry fish chutneys.
Punjab—pudina (mint) chutney, onion chutney, tamarind chutney, mango chutney
Tamil Nadu—coconut, coriander, curry leaf, red chilli, green chilli, tomato, ginger, mint, mango, lentil chutney
Uttar Pradesh—coriander, garlic, mint chutneys, sweet and sour mango, green chilli, and jaggery chutneys
West Bengal—lime, green mango, tomato, papaya, pineapple, date, dried mango jelly and other dry fruits, green chilli chutneys.
On my trip to Paris this year, where I was invited by Le Cordon Bleu for a demo of
Indian cuisine to aspiring fleet of future chefs, I met Mridula Baljecker, a well-known cookbook author and a chef from London. She demystified the myth that only Indians are fond of chutneys. Baljecker, in fact, told me that it’s so popular in London that people like to eat it with papadoms and she has started marketing her label of home-made chutneys with mouth-watering varieties like blueberry and thyme, orange and mint, tangerine, strawberry and thyme etc. I never knew such a wide concoction ever existed.
The writer is a well-known restaurateur and author of many cookbooks