Just thinking of or saying the word “chutney” makes my mouth water. I can almost taste the blast of all the flavors – spicy, sweet, sour, tangy – together in my mouth. It reminds me of all my favorite foods and snacks that I can have with different types of chutneys. Yummy!
The word Chutney is derived from the Hindi word “chaṭnī” or chaat, which means “to lick”. Chutney is a fairly generic term, and is generally defined as a condiment with a sharp taste, consisting of a combination of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices. By definition, a chutney is very flavorful (spicy/sour/sweet). It is supposed to be used in smaller quantities paired with other foods to enhance the flavors. Chutneys can be dry or wet, chunky or smooth, uncooked or cooked.
Chutneys are ground with a mortar and pestle made of stone. Nowadays, electric blenders or food processors can be used as labor-saving alternatives to the traditional stone utensils.
Different kinds of chutneys are specific to different regions and are supposed to be eaten with different types of food. But like I said earlier, chutneys are eaten with a particular dish or main course in order to enhance the flavor. Chutneys usually make food more spicy, more sour, or more tangy. It is a way to customize the same dish for different people according to their individual taste. That is why there is no one specific recipe for chutneys, and the ingredients and their quantities vary depending on the region, what is available, and people’s tastes. Chutney recipes can vary from one household to another.
Some of the most common chutneys are:
- Coriander/Mint Chutney (Green chutney): This chutney is used to add a spicy and fresh herb flavor to a dish. The basic ingredients are fresh coriander leaves, mint leaves, green chilies, ginger, white salt, pink salt, lemon juice, and roasted cumin. Onions, green mango, garlic, yogurt, garam masala and other spices are optional. All the ingredients are blended together to get the desired consistency. This is a very common type of chutney in northern and western India. This is usually accompanied with all the fried (samosas, pakoras, cutlets, bondas, tikkis) and steamed (khaman dhokla, khandvi) snacks as well as it is the most important ingredient of chaat, which is the most popular street food in north India, along with tamarind (sweet and sour) chutney.
- Tamarind Chutney (sweet and sour): This chutney is used to add the sweet and sour flavor to a dish. The basic ingredients are tamarind pulp, sugar/jaggery, mint, red chilly powder, white salt, pink salt, and roasted cumin. Dates and some other spices are optional. Cook everything together until the desired consistency is reached. This is also a very common type of chutney in northern and western India. It is often used in tandem with green chutney in many Indian snacks, including chaat.
- Coconut Chutney: The main ingredients are fresh grated coconut, green chilies, ginger, salt, and roasted split chana dal (dalia). These are blended together in a thick consistency. Then, a tempering of oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves, red chilies and asafoetida (hing) is added to this mixture. This is the most common type of chutney in south India and is always eaten with dosa, idli, vada and uttapam.
- Onion Chutney: The basic ingredients are onions, red chilies, cashews, sesame, small tamarind piece, mustard seeds, curry leaves, urad dal and salt. Tomatoes and a little jaggery are optional. Cashews and sesame can be replaced with peanuts or dalia (for a cheaper or nut free option). Ingredients are sautéed in oil and blended into smooth paste. This is also a very common type of chutney in southern India and is used in tandem with coconut chutney.
- Peanut Chutney: The basic ingredients are peanuts, roasted chana dal, green chilies, ginger, sesame seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves and salt. Ingredients are sautéed in oil and blended into a smooth paste. This is also a common type of chutney is southern India and can be served with dosa, idli, vada, and uttapam.
- Tomato chutney: This is a spicy and tangy chutney made of tomatoes. The basic ingredients are tomatoes, ginger, red chilies, urad dal, black pepper, cloves and salt. Ingredients are sautéed in oil first and blended in a smooth paste. A tempering of oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves, red chilies and asafoetida (hing) is then added to the mix. This is also a common type of chutney is south India and served with dosa, idli, vada and uttapam.
- Mango Chutney: This is sweet, sour and spicy chutney. The basic ingredients are grated green/tangy mangoes, jaggery or brown sugar, salt, red chili powder, roasted cumin, and garam masala. The ingredients are cooked in oil on a flame until it reaches the desired consistency. It is common in northern, western, and eastern India with some variations. It is usually served with dishes like parathas, pooris, stuffed parathas, theplas, khichri, and more.
- Garlic Chutney: This is a hot and spicy chutney. For this chutney, dry kashmiri red chilies are soaked in water and ground/blended with lots of peeled garlic cloves and salt. It is used in chaat like bhelpuri, sevpuri, and papri chaat together with the other chutneys to make it extra flavorful.
- Momos Chutney: This is a very spicy and pungent chutney to go with momos (steamed dumpling stuffed with vegetables or chicken). The basic ingredients are tomatoes, dried red chilies, chopped garlic, sichuan pepper, black pepper, sugar and salt. Tomatoes are first boiled in water with dried red chilies, and then blended together with all the other ingredients to create a smooth paste. As the name suggests, it goes very well with vegetarian momos and is very popular in eastern India.
- Podi (Gunpowder): This type of chutney, as the name suggests, is really hot and spicy. It is in the form of a dry powder. The basic ingredients are chana dal, urad dal, peanuts, dried coconut, a bit of sugar or jaggery, curry leaves, tamarind, dried red chilies, salt and a pinch of asafoetida. All the ingredients are dry roasted and powdered together. Podis are made into a paste by adding any type of oil (ghee, sesame oil, olive oil, peanut oil) at the time of serving. It is eaten with idlis or rice. It is a very common powder that can be found in every south Indian kitchen.