My family always had pickled marchu (peppers) around. Lal Marcha nu Athanu was a condiment at every meal. My mom would pretty much automatically add two chilies from the jar to every plate she prepared.
It’s not hard to understand why pickled marchu was so important. Can you imagine life without a refrigerator? Where do you put your milk, your leftovers, your produce? I can, because when I was a kid living in India, that wasn’t such a strange thing. I grew up in the 80s, at a time when refrigerators were just starting to be in most houses.
Oddly, our house on the farm had a refrigerator, but the one in Bombay did not. That is because in the city it was easy to get things like daily deliveries of milk and fresh produce. When it came to milk, we had milk delivered every morning.
My mom would boil it when we first got it, then again in the afternoon so we could have some with dinner. Any left over after that was turned into yogurt.
When you don’t have a refrigerator, fermentation becomes an important means of preservation. Another method of preservation is pickling. Pickling is an important part of Indian cuisine.
It goes with any kind of shaak and snacks like khandvi or dhokra. It’s like adding hot sauce to your food, but it’s the actual peppers.
If you are making this for the first time, I recommend choosing a very mild chili. The heat of any chili seems to be enhanced in the pickling process.
Lal Marcha nu Athanu (Red Chili Pickle)
- ½ cup olive or vegetable oil
- ¼ cup split mustard seed rye na kuriya
- 2 tbsp fennel seeds
- ¼ tbsp asafoetida hing
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp chili powder use a milder chili powder for less heat
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 pound red chilies
- Put all of the dry ingredients in a pan with the oil, cold. Heat until fragrant, but do not allow it to reach sizzling temperature.
- Pour into a bowl, mix in sugar and lemon juice.
- You can use either chopped chilies or whole chilies. If you are using whole chilies, split them open by slicing lengthwise along one side of the chili. Rub the mixture into the chilies.
- Place the chilies and liquid in a jar. The liquid does not fill the jars.
- Let the pickle sit at room temperature for 24-48 hours. Shake the jar a few times per day to distribute the mixture.
- Refrigerate after that. It will be good to eat for at least 2 weeks.