Saturday, 1 March 2014

Mirchi Ka Achar / Pickled Green Chillies

 I have been noticing in the last few months that the post on Kuler achar / Ber ka achar has been getting the most hits. People from Indonesia to Japan to the UK  to our good ole Kolkata, even Chattisgarh, have landed on the page searching for "how to make kuler achar". I have no idea if the recipe has helped anybody at all ... nobody bothers to leave a line these days ... but that is understandable.
I must confess that I have never been a fan of achar/pickles. And that one post was done one an impulsive,  self congratulatory mode ... the intention more of a record of my achievement than to actually help anybody with the directions of making achar.

As a child, I remember the uthon/courtyard  filled with different kinds of jars and earthen wares filled with numerous kinds of achars, all made by Thamma. I was never interested in them, tart and spicy things that made your mouth burn and made you gulp down glasses of water to return to normalcy.
And since they did not interest me much, the fragrance of those mysterious looking pots would be enough to make me turn back into the house if I ever ventured towards the uthon in the afternoons.

It was a different story altogether for the rest of the brood ... read cousins.
When the huge house went quiet in the afternoons, and Thamma and the rest of the Kakimas had retired to their respective rooms, and the helps would doze off in different corners of the house, the children would quietly get up and tip toe out ... but only after making sure their mothers were in deep sleep.
Very quietly, they would open the door to the dining room and then the one that led out to the uthon .... hushing each other, stiffling giggles and making sure that the squeaks from the door hinges made very,very little noise.
And then, they would raid the achar pots.
Run the mustard and nigella seeds in the mixer
The bhaarar ghor / store room and the kitchen stood adjacent to each other, on the long verandah above the uthon. The whole room smelled of different kind of spices and oils and achars. Numerous things were stored there. Among them were two huge tables that were joined together just to keep the jars of achars. The room was dark and cool. And a good hiding place too.

Didi was the gang leader and gave all the directions. The cousins would break up into pairs and each pair was alloted a day.  One would keep watch while the other raided the bharar ghor, pick up fistfuls of achar from which ever pot was nearest at hand and quietly make an escape. This scheme worked well with all the pairs except for the youngest lot ... the pair of  S and L.
And it was this pair that brought the downfall of the brilliant plan of achar chori.

It was just another weekday and the family had retired for the post lunch siesta. It was a hot, summer afternoon  and there was a quiet all over. S and L went quietly downstairs to do their job, with strict instructions from Didi.
L was younger, so was given the job of the lookout. She was to call out "Meeow", if she happened to see anybody approaching. And by anybody ... all they had expected was one or two house helps.

After S entered the store room  and was going about picking fistfuls of achars, she heard footsteps  outside.
Quickly she ducked under the huge table and went very quiet. Someone came up to the door and stopped. And she heard a muttering ... "The helps are no good ... have left the bhaarar ghor open. What if a cat comes in?"
Our eldest uncle had not gone to office that day! But as usual, we children were oblivious of  everything. So ... with some more mutterings, Jethu reached out and shut the huge doors of the store room and walked away.
Mix the chillies + masala + salt
S sat trembling under the table, inside the huge, dark room. Filled with numerous things of all shapes and sizes, it was a terrifying place to be all alone. And that too with the burden of guilt.
L, who had scampered away the moment she had heard Jethu, was meanwhile explaining to a furious Didi , who kept on repeating that all she had to do was to meeeeooow! , just how life threatening it was for her to stand by S.The house helps, she could have managed; but Jethu was a different case altogether.

Now came the point of how to rescue S. The store room was not opened in the evenings at all ... unless it was to get rice or coconuts out.
Hence trying to convince the elders to open it was a huge task.
So they decided to convince Thamma to open it.
"But why?"
"Because there is cat inside."
"A cat?! In my bharar ghor?!"
"Yes, Thamma, a big cat. What if it destroys your achar pots?"
"Tobey re ... awww Suro, aan toh jhaata ta!!"

Add some vinegar
The very thought of swiping poor S with the broom was even more distressing to the already upset gang.
But no ... that is the only way Thamma would open the room.
So ... armed with the biggest coconut stick broom, Suro, our house help, stood guard while our four feet high Thamma reached up to open the store room, signalling Suro, to give a big thwack as soon as the cat runs out.

As soon as the door opened, the cousins started to scream of "Don't run, don't run!" ... meaning to save S from a tremendous thwack. But on hearing the screams, Thamma jumps back, the door swings open and Suro keeps on beating the ground with the broom ... thwack, thwack, thwack.
And poor S ... in all the commotion, jumps up and scoots out, banging head on into Thamma.
"Orey chor, chor,chor!!!" ... Thamma screams.

Jethu, who, along with the rest of the family, had reached the uthon, to see what all the noise was about, reaches out and grabs S in one hand and holds her up to see the chor.
Seeing S dangling from Jethu's arm, the cousins break up and scramble away in all directions. 
And Thamma keeps on screaming "Chor,chor,chor!" and Suro, in his attempt to get the cat out,  kept on banging the broom ... thwack!, thwack!, thwack!, ...

Pour in the mustard oil
I don't remember any more achar chori stints after this episode.
But the story has stayed on to bring out the loudest laughter at every family gathering henceforth.

I made this Mirchi ka achar a few months back. A call out on FB and Soma, Sayantani ,and Anjali gave me the links to their versions. I took all their versions and made mine.
It is way too easy. Just ensure that you have the spiciest of the chillies ... they lend a beautiful fragrance to the achar.

Set in the sun for a week

Need :

Green chillies - cut into small pieces
Mustard oil - enough to drown the whole lot of chilles
Mustard seeds
Kalonji / Nigella seeds
Hing / Asaefotida

How to:

Run the mustard seeds and the nigella seends in a mixer ... just a couple of spurts ... and make a coarse powder.
Mix the chillies with this powder, salt and vinegar.
Heat the mustard oil ... the quantity depends on the consistency you want ... I wanted more of the fragrant oil so used a lot.
When it reaches smoking point, remove from heat and add the hing.
Pour into the chilli mix.
Let it stand in the sun for around a week.


I enjoyed the oil on hot steamed rice. And the achar goes great with any kind of parathas.

Some other Achars / Pickles that I have, successfully, tried my hands on  : - 

Aam Ka Achar  

Ber Ka Achar / Kuler Achar

Tel Kopi / Pickled Cauliflower  

Kanji Vada ( not exactly a pickle, but equally tangy and tasty )


  1. Ha ha Sharmila! what a lovely naration of the incident, brings back my own memories of all the naughtiness we'd been up to as kids. Love how you write "you took all and made your own" :)

    1. Lol ... thanks Anjali! :-)
      Please put down your stories too ... would love to read them. :)

  2. Hi Sharmila(know ur name from other commentators :))
    I have been visiting your blog for quite sometime now and I love it..Tried many recipes as well..Simple, easy to make and absolute yummy..For me, the biggest challenge is to make everyday meal easy to cook healthy and tasty and I must say your recipes fulfill all..Thanks for the wonderful blog.I always thought to put a comment but I am not good at it so was kinda apprehensive.. Today gone through your post and felt sorry for not saying a thank here I go again "Thanks":) ..btw, am not even much fond of pickles but this chilli pickle looks tempting..Can I add little bit sugar for the punch..not sure..I may try ..Thanks again . This is Mona from Kolkata.:)

    1. Thank you for such beautiful words Mona!
      Yes, I guess you can use a little sugar. Hope you enjoy the achar. :-)

  3. What a delightful anecdote! It was fun reading about your escapades as a child, Sharmila. And the achaar looks super yummy.

    1. Hehe Vaishali ... I was the goody goody one ... just contributed to the ideas. The escapades were the rest of the brood's forte. ;-)

  4. This is one of most loveliest memories... I was reading your another post and a link sent me here.. Glad I clicked it ��

    Take care,


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