I love indian pickles. It’s a problem. They’re supposed to be a condiment, not a meal - but says who? I often dump mango pickle on rice and call it dinner. I remember eating this as a kid alone at midnight so I couldn’t be told off and force-fed a proper curry. But now I’m an adult and I’ll eat what I want. I’M ALLOWED.
Indian pickles are different from American pickles in that the vegetables are cooked in different spices and then preserved in oil. The best part of Indian pickles is the masala that sinks to the bottom of the jars. I always greedily dig my spoon in to excavate that oily, spicy goodness. So when I came across this spice mix by Shan, I nearly flipped my little toupee:
“Achar Gosht” means Pickle-Style Meat. Where had this been all my life? It made me angry that no one told me about it. This spice mix is basically that spicy goodness I would scoop out from the bottom of the pickle jars. And here I was, holding a pure, Heisenburg-quality box of it. What makes this spice mix distinctly pickle-like is its addition of fennel, caraway and fenugreek, the last of which imparts a sweet, licorice taste.
Shan is a company that sells spice mixes for any type of kebab or curry imaginable. It can be tiresome mixing and grinding all the different spices you need for a curry (this one has over 14), so it’s convenient to be able to buy 1 box that has the exact spices you need. The recipe is also conveniently written on the box, but following it exactly often results in an insanely spicy dish.
Below is how I made my Indian Pickle Chicken Curry. While it still ends up being spicy, it’s nowhere near as spicy as it would’ve been had I followed Shan’s instructions. (These instructions included slitting whole green chilies and stuffing them with masala before adding them to the curry. Hot!)
You will need:
- 1 ½ lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 4 medium garlic cloves, mashed or microplaned into a paste
- 2 inch piece of ginger, mashed or microplaned into a paste
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 ¼ cup yogurt
- 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tbsp Shan Achar Gosht Curry mix
- 2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
Begin by cutting the chicken into 1 inch cubes. Mix them in a bowl with the garlic, ginger, salt and ¼ cup of yogurt. Set this aside while you chop your tomatoes and heat your ghee or oil.
When the ghee or oil is hot, throw in the chicken mixture and allow the chicken to just start to brown.
Then add the remaining yogurt, tomatoes and spice mix. Stir well, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until the chicken is tender, about 20-30 minutes. (South Asian cooks, I’ve realized, don’t really time things. Their general rule when making a chicken curry is to wait until the oil separates and floats to the top. Once this happens, the chicken is usually done.)
I like to serve this with chopped tomatoes and cucumber, plus a side of yogurt to take off the heat. And if you want to go the extra mile…serve with a side of pickle.