Most Indian pickles (achar) are sour, salty and spicy. Salty ? Yes, like Feta, or preserved black olives, or even salty pretzels. While many find achar irresistible, it is undoubtedly an acquired taste. Even the most ardent Indophiles, if untrained, are known to have tapped out.
Driven by the need for a quick yet toothsome meal for a hungry, fussy bunch, I had cobbled this up which met with stunning success. But, it was so embarrassingly easy, that I had closeted it. Emboldened by the presence of an achari dish amongst “100 essential recipes” in The Flavor Equation (a book I received from secret Santa this year), I am having mine step out of the closet. I have added locally grown wild mushrooms and Fall carrots to elevate the humble chicken breasts. You don’t even have to be an Indophile to enjoy this spectacular briny-spicy dish. Enjoy!
Makes two servings.
- 1 lb chicken breasts, cut thin into 4-5 pieces (or, thin chicken cutlets)
- veggies: 2 cups loosely packed Maitake mushrooms + 1 cup julienned carrots carrots
- 1/3 cup store-bought Mango Pickles
- Seasoning (optional): 1 tsp panch phutana, toasted and powdered
- Garnish (optional): micro-greens
Mix the chicken with the pickles; mix in the carrots and then gently the mushrooms. Portion out on two plates, add 1 tbsp water in each and sprinkle seasoning on top. Steam for 15-20 mins, till chicken is done.
Garnish and serve hot with grains or bread.
Notes, hints, tips:
- I adapted the Chinese technique of steaming and I love their bamboo steaming baskets. You may wrap the chicken in aluminium or parchment packets and place directly in your steaming basket.
- You can increase the amount of pickles in this recipe to 1/2 cup or more for a more assertive flavor.
- Although rice is a friendly accompaniment, buckwheat groats (or even freshly baked rye bread) goes very well.
- Pancha phutana is a mix of whole spices. Equal parts by volume of fennel, nigella, cumin, mustard, fenugreek. My grandmother’s secret formula added 1/8 part of dried chilli seeds. I use this here to accentuate the achari-ness.