This is the forty first installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!
Written by Leela Kodali & Edited by Prashanti Kodali
At college, when I’m away from home, I miss eating my parents’ home-cooked meals; I miss the flavor, especially the spiciness. Weirdly enough, I miss the sensation of my mouth burning and my eyes watering because of the spice level. Perhaps my favorite food to eat is achaar—a delicious, spicy, and traditional Indian pickled condiment eaten with rice. Typically made from oil and a spice blend, achaar always features a staple ingredient—anything from red chilies to lemon to raw mango. Today, I am sharing my mom’s recipe for our family’s favorite type: tindora achaar. Resembling a cucumber, tindora is a slightly bitter vegetable commonly used in South and Southeast Asian cuisines. Because of its odd texture, tindora is a very controversial vegetable – some people love it; others hate it.
Here’s the story of how my mom came to appreciate tindora:
“When I was a little girl, I used to despise tindora. I thought the vegetable was flavorless and had an awful texture. I remember begging my mom to never make a tindora curry. If I saw that she was cooking with tindora, I’d shudder in disgust. To this day, I still strongly dislike eating tindora in most other foods—its slimy texture will always irk me.
Later on in life, I remember going to an Indian restaurant while visiting my family in New Jersey. My brother begged me to try the restaurant’s tindora achaar. I initially refused, but he was relentless. I finally gave in so that he would stop talking. To my surprise, I was captivated by the incredible flavor and surprising texture of the tindora achaar. I was gobsmacked! The tindora was full of flavor and crunchy instead of slimy!
As soon as I came home, I immediately Googled how to make the tindora achaar and quickly discovered how simple it is to make. I found out that the tindora wasn’t slimy because the pieces are dried before they are pickled. The combination of spices that was used sounded heavenly. The only hard part about making this recipe was waiting the full two days for the tindora pieces to absorb all the spice.
Nowadays, I make this recipe for my family all the time. It isn’t time consuming at all and is one of the few recipes everyone enjoys. I keep the tindora achaar in our refrigerator, at all times; if I’m working or I’m feeling lazy that day, my family is more than happy to eat it with rice. No one complains.”
- 3 cups tindora
- ½ cup chili powder
- ½ cup mustard powder
- ½ tbsp. turmeric powder
- ½ cup salt
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- 6 dried red chilies
- ½ tsp. chana daal
- Optional: ¼ tsp. Asafoetida powder
Begin by cutting the tindora into small pieces. The best way to do this is to first cut off the ends of the tindora. Next, cut the tindora in half lengthwise twice, resulting in four long pieces. Cut each quarter into bite size pieces. After this, spread out the chopped up tindora onto a large plate, or multiple plates if necessary, and let them dry. When placing the tindora onto the plate(s), make sure that the pieces are evenly spread out and that none overlap. It is best to let the tindora dry outside under the hot sun for at least 1 hour.
When the tindora is finally dry, place the pieces into a large mixing bowl. Add the chili powder, mustard powder, turmeric powder, and lemon juice to the bowl, and mix until all the pieces are evenly coated in the spices. Set this aside.
Next, add the vegetable oil to a medium pot and heat on a low flame for approximately 5 minutes. Add the dried red chilies, chana daal, and Asafoetida powder. Asafoetida is a blend of spices commonly used when pickling foods and in various South Asian recipes. The Asafoetida adds a nice punch to this already spicy recipe. However, it is not necessary, as it can be hard to find; the other spices already add tons of flavor! Remove the pot from heat once the golden yellow chana daal becomes lightly browned. Let this cool for 2-3 minutes before adding it to the mixing bowl with the tindora pieces.
Then, stir the mixture enough so that the tindora pieces are even coated in the spices and oil. Transfer the tindora achaar into a large glass jar and store in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 days. This allows the tindora pieces to absorb all the oil and spices, maximizing the pickling effect.
The tindora achaar can last up to 3 months if stored in the refrigerator. A spoonful of the tindora achaar is typically eaten with a serving of rice. Some people like to add ghee (clarified butter) to the rice and achaar mixture as it reduces some of the spiciness. Enjoy!