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The Products I'm Loving Right Now - This article first appeared in The Rosengarten Report, Issue Number 37.
You can order your Indian pickle by contacting Indian Foods Co. (one of my favorite Indian purveyors) by phone or on their web site. To locate this product on their site, click on "Food Products," and then key "Pachranga-North Indian Mixed Pickle" into the "SEARCH" box.
Indian Foods Co.
Pachranga North Indian Mixed Pickle
($6.99 for a 28-oz. can, shipping not included)
One of the most popular components of an Indian meal in India is a complete mystery, even a turn-off, to many Americans-even to those who have come to love and embrace Indian food! I speak of the Indian "pickle"-slices of lemon (as in "lemon pickle") or mango (as in "mango pickle"), or other items, that have been spiced, and preserved in salt and oil with chiles. The problems for the American palate are manifold. An Indian pickle is resolutely un-sweet, creating instead a basic profile that's only salty and hot. An Indian pickle usually has lots of mystery shards floating in it, some of which are too hard to chew; it seems like a mine field. Lastly, the spicing, particularly in un-fresh versions, can add up to a taste that's reminiscent of varnish, not of Indian food. I myself was anti-pickle for a long time-before I went to India, and understood how delicious pickles can be, and how perfectly they accompany an Indian meal. So, back in the States, I've been searching for good Indian pickles that capture the freshness and distinctiveness of what I tasted on the sub-continent. Bingo! . . . or . . . Bengal! At one of my favorite Indian lunch buffets-Tandoori North Restaurant, on West 97 St. in New York City (212.932.7720)-they serve a mixed pickle that is delicious. Is it homemade, I asked? No . . . it comes out of a large can . . . which can be shipped to your door! I received mine, picked it apart, and found pieces of mango, lime, lemon, lotus root, ginger, carrot and turnip, all swimming in that typically chile-crazy oil. I love it-and I think if you have any tolerance for Indian pickle at all, this one will help you see the light. Most of the chunks are tender and identifiable. The fennel-led spicing yields a delicious taste, not at all varnish-like. Best of all, the whole seems to have been packed in 2005, not 1945. Remember: don't eat this by itself! But if you're preparing Indian food, and if you give your guests a tablespoon or two of this stuff on the side-the authenticity, exoticism and deliciousness of your meal will rise exponentially!