Thursday, June 10, 2010


Understand how chutney uplifts the Indian palate

Most people associate hot curries and spicy pickles as the staple, accompanying foods in Indian cuisine. However, there is another aspect to this in the form of chutneys. Often referred to as ‘flavored pastes’, chutneys are traditional preparations that have been used in Indian households for many decades. Most people may not realize this but the word ‘chutney’ has Colonial origins since it was first used by the East Indian Company, referring to the spicy nature of this authentic, Indian offering.

What are chutneys?
A chutney is essentially a smooth, paste-like form of seasonal fruits, spices, herbs and sugar. Some of the chutneys are also therapeutic in nature. These are chutneys loaded with ginger and beneficial fruits used for curing moderate ailments like an ailing stomach or a bout of seasonal flu. Chutneys are a rich source of natural anti-oxidants and essential nutritional elements since the major constituent of every chutney is a fruit. The range of fruits can vary from typically Indian fruits like mangos to more global fruits like peaches, apricots, apples and plums.

Chutneys: the practical food companion
The reason why chutneys are still relevant to the Indian kitchen is beyond their ease-of-preparation or the wonderful taste. This is primarily because chutneys can be easily preserved and they can be used as a universal, additional or flavoring food. Chutneys are a welcome supplement if there is a dearth of the main dish that has been served. Chutneys make-up for the lack of aromatic foods, particularly when plain foods like breads or rice are being eaten. Further, chutneys can be altered to suit the palate of nearly every individual. Chutneys can be customized to make them mildly sweet, extremely spicy or a mixture of being tangy with an undertone of being sweet.

Chutneys found in Indian households can be very spicy. This is because some strong spices like red chili and black pepper are added generously. However, spices aren’t the secret ingredient in Indian chutneys. This pedestal belongs to tamarind. Tamarind paste is added to many kinds of Indian chutneys. Apart from adding a characteristic flavor to the chutney, the tamarind content also contributes towards the preservation aspect. This negates the need to use preservatives like vinegar or copious amounts of sugars, making the chutney a more refreshing and healthy option.

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