Indian Pickle Sambal

I’m an Indian food freak, and therefore spend lots of time as an Indian food proselytizer. In that role, I perceive that my fellow Americans generally love Indian food, when they get to savor good, authentic examples of it. But there is always one no-fly zone, one tremendously important Indian taste that few Americans can handle: the taste of Indian pickle. It is an absolutely essential condiment at Indian meals in India, one of those "tastes" (like grated cheese on pasta) that helps define a cuisine—but it has never caught on here. I understand this; before I went to India and tasted the fresh, vibrant pickles there, I too was not a fan.

So I decided to make Indian pickles safe for Americans—to create an Indian pickle with training wheels. The following recipe blends a bit of the strong pickle taste with the more crowd-pleasing taste of chutney, and with some raw vegetables. All you need to do to get started is to find a jar of Indian pickle at an Indian grocery store: I’ve recommended lime pickle, the easiest to find, but use any Indian pickle you like.

Blend it up, serve with any Indian meal—and watch that pickle-phobia melt away.

  • ¼ cup lime pickle, from a jar marked "hot";
  • ¼ cup mango chutney, from a jar marked "hot";
  • 1 cup very thin onion slices, packed firm;
  • 1 cup thick julienne of tomato, cut from 1/8" slices, packed firm;
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, packed firm;
  • ½ teaspoon vinegar

1. Place lime pickle on a chopping board; remove any hard pieces. Top with mango chutney. Chop until you have a paste with small chunks in it. Add to large mixing bowl.

2. Add onion, tomato, cilantro and vinegar to bowl. Combine well, trying to keep the cilantro leaves “fluffy.”

3. Serve as condiment with Indian food.

Published on November 3, 2009