Achar is the name in India for “pickle relishes.” Just as there are many different types of pickle relishes in the West, so there are many different types of Achar made in India. Many families have their own prized recipes.
Achars are spicy relishes, though some will be hotter and some will be milder. Some recipes just take a few ingredients, some will use up to 20. Some are quick recipes that you make and serve, others require aging for a few months. Some will be saltier than others.
Achars are made from chopped fruits and vegetables such as palm cabbage, bamboo shoots, and the stem of stem mustard plants. Sometimes nuts are included as well, along with lime juice for flavouring and grated Zedoary. Achars don’t, though, use a lot of vinegar, as Western pickle relishes do.
To make them, generally the vegetables are blanched, and then have excess liquid squeezed out of them. They are then mixed with a spicy sauce.
Good Achars are crunchy and very fragrant. They are served cold as a side condiment for many different kinds of food.
Achar is also made in other places in South East Asia such as Indonesia, where lemon grass may be added. Indian ex-pats have also taken their love of Achar with them to the Caribbean.
Commercial versions of Achar can also be bought in food stores where Indian or Caribbean food items are sold.
Be careful eating some Achars, particularly ones with mango in them, as they may contain hard, sharp bits of the shell of the kernel in the centre of the fruit. Indians don’t consider this a problem as they know to watch for it. These pieces aren’t chewable or edible; you’ll need to pick them out of your mouth. Leaving the kernel shells in the pickle is deemed important because apparently the kernel is important for preservation of the pickle.
Also spelt “acar” in English.