Chutney Cheers!!


Chatna in Indian parlance translates “to lick” with a pluckering of the tongue while tasting something tangy and spicy…the so called origin of the word “chatni” which turned into the anglicised “chutney” with the coming and going of the British to our sub continent.

The original Indian “chatni” was a mixture of uncooked fruits and vegetables with green chillies, fresh herbs, spices and maybe an acid base like vinegar or lemon juice, which served as a preservative while adding the tangy twist to the concoction. Sometimes in the 18th century the concept of the “chatni” travelled to the British climes where it served as a process of preservation for the autumn fruits for future use especially during the cold winter months. Chutney thus reached the western shores where tart fruits like rhubarb, apples, pears etc were pickled and turned to chutneys by mixing them with brown sugar and vinegar. At times malt was also used to produce a milder disposition to the mixture.

Chutneys in the modern world has graduated to commercial levels where these concoctions are produced in bulk and sold off the shelves at supermarkets. The home made ones still rule the kitchen and the dining tables of all and sundry and are classified accordingly to the country, region or state where it is consumed. English and American chutneys are fruit based and served as side dishes with meat or cheese. While the chutneys of the Indian subcontinent is wide and varied and absolutely regional in taste and texture…..

Red Ant Chutney – Chapda

A delicacy from the red soil region of Bastar in Chhattisgarh, these bite sized red ants and their eggs are collected from the forests and brought to the palate, relished as a tangy, stingy chutney. The ants along with their eggs are crushed and dried and then mixed with tomatoes, coriander, garlic, ginger, chilies, salt and a bit of sugar in a mortar and pestle. Lo and behold, there emerges an orange paste which will literally bite your tongue!!

P.S: The celebrity British chef Gordon Ramsay loved this red ant chutney so much that he took it to his list of recipes back home!

Tree Tomato Chutney : Sohbandang

The tomatoes in the hills of Meghalaya grows on trees and is called “sohba” or tree tomatoes. These fruits are picked fresh from the trees or bought from the village lassies who sell them by the roadsides. The chutney preparation involves a simple process of either boiling or roasting the tomatoes, roasting is preferred as it leaves a smoky flavour to the chutney. The roasted tomatoes are then skinned, crushed and mixed with chopped onions, coriander and some crushed chillies. Finally before serving a dash of salt and mustard oil is added to enhance the taste.

P.S : The tree tomato contains anthocyanin and flavonids which protects the skin from anti-aging. It is also said to cure inflamed tonsils.

Sesame Seed Chutney – Til Bota

Sesame or the til is harvested during the winter months. It is consumed to keep the body warm. These heart shaped, nutrition rich oil seeds are widely used in cooking in the state of Assam, where chicken and fish are also prepared with the black til paste. Fresh vegetables like radish or plain boiled potatoes are also relished with til powder or paste. The til chutney which serves as a side dish to any Assamese meal is the “til bota”, “bota” translating to grind.  The black sesame seeds are toasted on a hot pan and ground with chillies, some garlic cloves, salt and a dash of mustard oil to taste.

P.S : The “til bota” or paste is served to lactating mothers minus the chillies since it is believed to help in production of milk.

Fermented Fish Chutney – Eromba

Ee – rom – ba pronounced with a flourish is a special chutney prepared by the Meitei tribe of Manipur. The fermented fish or the “Ngari” and the stink or tree beans. This chutney is prepared by boiling peeled potatoes, stink or tree beans and dry red chillies. The boiled red chillies and the fermented fish are ground to a paste and kept aside, to be added once the boiled vegetables are mashed. The mixture is then mixed with a few drops of water and garnished with chopped onions, coriander and mint leaves.

P.S : There have been instances of room mates in the hostel changing rooms due to the stink of the eromba chutney!!

Soyabean (fermented) Chutney – Tungrymbai

Tungrymbai literally means smelling beans and has been described on the World Wide Web as a notorious dish of Meghalaya having an unpleasant smell. It is one of the most popular chutney or side dish served with rice and everything else. This smelly chutney is prepared with fermented soya bean as the main ingredient which is mashed and kept aside. Chopped onions are fried in a little oil in a pan. Black sesame seed paste, garlic leaf paste, Thai chilli paste and turmeric is added to this mixture and fried till the oil separates. The fermented soya bean paste is then added to this along with some salt for taste. The mixture is allowed to simmer till the smell emanates.

P.S : The soya bean plant do not need much water and can withstand cold climes, hence is a perfect crop for the winter months in the hills of Meghalaya!!

Dry Fish Chutney – Tungtap

The dry fish cooking in the northeastern region of India has been a legacy carried down generations, it is said that each family has their own recipe for the dry fish preparation, be it curry or chutneys. The tungtap from the Meghalaya hills is dried anchovies which has been roasted or charred and pound into a paste before mixing with diced onions, green and red chillies and a dash of raw mustard oil. The same can also be made with wet anchovies wherein the fish may just be mashed and mixed with the same ingredients. 

P. S : The dry fish market in Sylhet by the river Surma is one of the largest and exports dry fish to the United Kingdom, USA, Canada and other Asian markets!!

Roasted Green Chilli Chutney – Hmarcha Rawt 

This is probably one of the few vegetarian food that you find on the dining tables of Mizoram. It’s as simple as it gets, roast some green chillies in a pan until it is charred. Let it cool and then pound it to a coarse paste with no added water. Mix it in a bowl with chopped onions, grated ginger and salt. This chutney can even be made with red chillies.

P.S: This chutney is hot and spicy – Mizoram is the most inclusive state in the Indian subcontinent so any added information besides the general ones like a Chutney being hot and spicy is not available!!!

Chutney Cheers for some spice in life!!