Pickles- the palate pleaser

 Deccan Chronicle

Chef Soju Philip | November 24, 2013, 12.57 pm IST

Pickle has grown over the years and decades from a convenient addition to the dining table to an essential part of any meal. Kerala is one state with a wide variety of them, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The history of pickles can be traced to nearly 4,000 years ago, according to food historians. It began as a way of preserving food in olden days when there was no chance of refrigeration. Scar­city of certain foods in particular seasons and the need to keep food for the summer when there is lack of water must have paved the way for the art of making pickles.

Generally, pickling is a process to preserve foods that are exotic, seasonal or limited by the climate, cultivation and nature.

The traditional way of making long-lasting Kerala pickles is to dry the main ingredient before cooking it with exotic spices and flavours. Mango and lime continue to be the most common ingredients but fish, prawns and meat are also an instant hit, especially in the family tables of the Syrian Christian community of Kerala.

The writer is the executive chef at Club Mahindra Poovar, Thiruvananthapuram



Pavakkai (Bittergourd) achaar


  • Bitter gourd sliced  250 gm
  • Lemon juice  3 tsp
  • Salt/sugar  To taste
  • Turmeric powder  ½ tsp

For sautéing:

  • Gingelly oil  ½ cup
  • Curry leaf  1 sprig
  • Mustard seeds  1 tsp
  • Sliced chilli  2 tsp
  • Sliced garlic  1 tbsp
  • Jaggery  1 tbsp
  • Kashmiri
  • chilli powder 2 tbsp
  • Turmeric powder  ¼ tsp
  • Vinegar  3 tbsp
  • Asafoetida  ¼ tsp


  • Mix bitter gourd with salt, sugar, turmeric and lemon juice, squeeze well and dry it in the sun.
  • Heat oil. Splutter mustard, curry leaf, garlic and chilli and add all the spices. Add a little bit of water and allow it to simmer well.
  • Add the bitter gourd and mix well with the jaggery and vinegar. Adjust the salt and allow it to simmer for a while till the pickle cooks well and oil floats.
  • Keep in a dry clean jar.

​Chemmeen (Shrimp) achaar 


  • Small shrimps 250 gms
  • Chilli powder 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder ¼ tsp
  • Lemon juice 1 tsp
  • Salt  To taste
  • Oil 1 cup
  • For pickle:
  • Garlic 1 tsp
  • Ginger chopped 1 tsp
  • Curry leaf 1 sprig
  • Mustard seed 1tsp
  • Methi seed ½ tsp
  • Kashmiri chilli  1 tbsppowder
  • Turmeric powder ¼ tsp
  • Asafoetida ¼ tsp
  • Green chilli chopped 1 tsp
  • Vinegar 2 tbsp
  • Gingelly oil  50 ml
  • Salt To taste


  • Marinate the shrimps with chilli powder, turmeric, lemon juice and salt.
  • Keep for some time and deep fry in hot oil.
  • Heat gingelly oil in a pan, splutter mustard seeds and methi seeds, add curry leaf and sauté ginger, garlic and chilli.
  • Add asafoetida, Kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric and salt with little water and simmer for a while.
  • Add fried prawns and cook for a while till the oil floats on top. Slow down the fire and add vinegar and adjust salt. Remove from fire.
  • Cool it down to room temperature and store in air tight jars.

Meen (Fish) achaar


  • Firm-fleshed fish (tuna/vatta)  500 gm

For marination:

  • Kashmiri chilli powder 1 tbsp
  • Turmeric powder ½ tsp
  • Vinegar 1 tbsp
  • Salt To taste
  • Pepper powder ¼ tsp
  • Roast and ground:
  • Fenugreek seeds ¼ tsp
  • Mustard seeds ½ tsp
  • Cumin seeds ½ tsp

For pickling:

  • Sliced garlic 1 tbsp
  • Chopped ginger 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves 1 sprig
  • Mustard seeds 1 tsp
  • Kashmiri chilli powder 3 tbsp
  • Pepper powder 1tsp
  • Turmeric ½ tsp
  • Salt/sugar To taste
  • Vinegar ½ cup
  • Gingelly oil 3/4 cup
  • Asafoetida ¼ tsp


  • Cut fish into small pieces, marinate, keep for one hour and dry it on a smoke chamber or deep fry. Keep aside.
  • Roast and ground the mustard, jeera and fenugreek.
  • Heat gingelly oil. Add mustard, curry leaf and saute the ginger and garlic. Add the chilli powder, turmeric, pepper, sauté and add a cup of water. Simmer well. Add the fish pieces, vinegar, salt and sugar along with asafoetida. Simmer for a while. Add the spices, mix well till oil floats. Remove from fire.