In my house, we call it “lila marcha nu athanu,” it’s green chili pickle, and we’ve always got some on hand. You might also call it bharela marcha nu athanu, which means stuffed chili pickle, or rai wala marcha nu athanu, which refers to the mustard seeds (rai).
Chili pickle is a necessity as far as Gujarati condiments go. We add mustard seed, salt, sugar, and oil to preserve the chilies all year. “Lal marcha nu athanu” is a similar pickle made with red chilies.
Gujarati cuisine has a deep fondness for green marcha, especially eating chilies on the side of every meal. We do it in different ways: athanu, shakela marcha (roasted in ghee), dipped in spiced yogurt, dried then fried, or even raw with some salt.
Traditionally these are made with medium-spicy, long green chilies. You want to eat these in a way that adds a little spice to your plate but does not overwhelm the meal. These chilies are hard to find in stores in the US, so I use shishito peppers. Shishito peppers are milder than I would have preferred, so I added a serrano chili to the oil to bring up the heat.
Instead of using rai na kuria (husked, split mustard seeds) and methi na kuria (crushed methi seeds), I used yellow mustard seeds and whole methi (fenugreek). I crushed these together in a mortar and pestle. If you can find the kuria or have them on hand, that would be preferable. I used yellow mustard seeds because rai na kuria is yellow, but black mustard seeds would be fine too. It just changes the look.
You can serve these pickles with many different foods. They go especially well with any traditional meal including rotli, shaak, Gujarati dal, kadhi, and rice.
Gujarati Green Chili Pickle (Marcha nu Athanu)
- 25 mild to medium green chilies like shishito (see size of packet from rader Joe's)
- 3 Tbsp mustard seeds I use yellow but black will work too
- 1 Tbsp fenugreek seeds
- 1.5 Tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 Tbsp salt
- ½ tsp hing (asafoetida)
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1-2 Serrano chilies optional
- 1 ½ cup oil more if desired
- 3 Tbsp lemon juice
- Heat 1 cup of the oil, add hing/asafoetida, turmeric, and 1 to 2 Serrano chilies for heat. Turn off the heat and let the oil cool.
- In a dry pan, toast the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, and fennel seeds until fragrant. Be sure to stir continuously to avoid burning.
- Using a mortar and pestle, coarsely grind the seeds. Then add salt and 1/4 cup of oil.
- Slit the chilies in half long-ways, keeping the top half inch intact. Stuff the mixture into the chilies
- Add the lemon juice the cooled oil. Then mix in the stuffed chilies.
- Let sit in a jar at room temp for 2-3 days. Shaking the jar twice a day.
As the salt and lemon soak into the chilies, the chilies will release liquid. The water level in the jar will go up. Shake it after a couple of days to make sure the chilies are completely covered in oil. After the first 2-3 days, if you want to preserve the pepper in the jar at room temperature, you can fill the jar to the top with oil so there is no oxygen and the chilies are fully submerged. This will preserve them for 3-6 months.
It is not necessary to do this, however. After the two days on the counter, if you plan to use it right away, you can keep it in your fridge and it will be stay good for a month.
If you don’t want to stuff the chilies, you can quarter them and use the same masala. The purpose of the stuffing isn’t so much for flavor as it is for serving whole chilies on the side of a plate. It is purely an aesthetic choice.