From cooked to raw, smooth to course, and sour to sweet, Indian cuisine abounds with condiments made from veggies and spices known as chutneys. If you frequent Indian restaurants, you probably have sampled at least three of these: mint, tamarind and onion. For unknown reasons, these chutneys have become the ubiquitous accompaniment to most Indian buffets.
While I find them all delicious along with countless other chutneys, onion remains my favorite. Essentially a pickle (you may have noticed my fondness for all things pickled), onion chutney adds tantalizing zing and bite to any meal. This recipe forgoes the preternatural red dye that most restaurants add. I made up the recipe based on taste; the Man tweaked it adding tempered mustard seeds. He couldn’t help himself—Keralite Indians believe mustard seeds make everything better. I say it works either way.
Onion chutney along with dal is a part of our basic Sunday night Indian meal. I use this chutney in non-Indian meals too. I particularly like it with eggs or smoked meats.
- 1 T oil--mustard, vegetable or canola (optional)
- 1 T black mustard seeds (optional)
- I large onion, finely chopped (about a cup)
- ½ t salt
- ½ t sweet paprika
- 1 pinch cayenne powder
- 3 T cider vinegar
- If adding the mustard seeds, first heat the oil in a small pan over a medium-high flame.
- Once hot, add mustard seeds and cook until they "pop" and release their flavor (30 seconds), then immediately remove from heat.
- Mix all the ingredients, store in a glass jar, refrigerate, and serve the next day. The chutney should last several weeks if kept refrigerated.
If you live in a town or city with even a small Indian population, you undoubtedly have access to an Indian grocery. I can think of five in Milwaukee alone and every time I drive to an unfamiliar part of the city or suburbs, I see another one. Find one near you and go. The Indian grocery sells spices and other whole foods like rice, legumes and nuts at a fraction of the cost you find in the supermarket.
Going to a small mom & pop shop where YOU are the foreigner can seem intimidating sometimes, but they do want you and your business. Be brave Just think of it as an adventure—a cheap, quick, international-travel experience. Go; take your time; explore the aisles; it’s fun to discover new foods. Think about it as visiting an ethnic museum with a food theme. Not only will you have fun, but you will also support a local family business while you save money. I can’t think of a better masala than that!