Citizens, the Nepalese are exceedingly fond of pickles and chutneys known as achaar or achar.
Achaar actually means “spicy pickle”, and they are always an important part of Nepali meals. Achaars are made from fruits or vegetables mixed with spices. Oil is also used as both a pickling medium and a preservative.
Achaars are not eaten by themselves, but as a complementary side dish to a main meal. It is generally eaten with rice, curry, roti or chapati.
Apart from the main ingredient and masala spice mix, achaar achieves its flavor with ginger, tomatoes, lime, onions, garlic etc.
The most popular achaar in Nepal is Golbheda Ko Achaar, which is made from tomato – this is my version of the classic recipe for your enjoyment, Citizens! It includes an exceedingly rare herb found only high in the Himalaya mountains – thankfully, I found one online source for it here in the U.S.! 🙂
It would not be inaccurate to call this Nepalese “salsa”, Citizens!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
¼ cup mustard oil
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon ajwain seeds
9 medium tomatoes, any variety, chopped
4 fresh jalapeños, halved lengthwise
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon dried jimbu – a Himalayan herb related to onion and garlic, buy it from here
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 ½ teaspoons peeled and julienned fresh ginger
½ cup finely chopped cilantro
Dry-roasted whole spices:
⅓ cup sesame seeds
3 dried red chilies, stemmed and cut into several pieces
¼ teaspoon Sichuan pepper (timmur)
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
Heat a small skillet over medium heat and toast the sesame seeds, chilies, timmur, cumin, and mustard, stirring constantly to prevent the seeds from flying all over, until they give off a pleasant aroma and darken.
Remove the spices from the skillet, pour them into dry container to halt the toasting, and let them cool. Transfer the cooled spices to a spice grinder, grind to a fine powder, and set aside.
Heat the mustard oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium high-heat until faintly smoking. Add the fenugreek seeds and fry until dark brown and fragrant, about 5 seconds.
Add tomatoes, jalapeños, salt, and turmeric and cook, covered, until the tomatoes soften. Adjust the heat to medium and cook stirring from time to time, until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has thickened, about 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat, mix the dry roasted spices and cilantro and set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add jimbu and cook until darker in color and fragrant. Add the garlic and ginger, and fry, stirring until golden and slightly crisp.
With a slotted spoon, remove the garlic, ginger with jimbu, draining as much oil as possible, and add them to tomato mixture. Transfer the achaar to a serving dish and sprinkle with cilantro.