Oorukai: Manjal, Manga Injie, Vepilaikatti
Pickles are an important part of the South Indian meal, best eaten as an accompaniment to the last course of yogurt rice. Pickles in India are very different from the European varieties in that they are preserved in oil rather than vinegar. The acidic element of lemon or lime juice that is added prevents the pickle from going bad (bacterial growth), while the oil acts as a preservative. My favorite pickle is Maahaani (Sarsaparilla root) which my husband says he finds has a strong smell as it is pickled in oil, chili powder, and yogurt. The varieties are endless and include fruits like lemons, limes, mangoes, gooseberries, and citron to name a few. The mango variations alone are numerable with the likes of avvakai, vadu maangai, manga thokku, and one simply called manga oorukai.
The best part of having Indian parents and in-laws is all the great food they send us, and my fridge is always stocked with their homemade pickles. My dad is famed for his avvakai and regularily sends me batches of the fiery hot soaked mango pickle. Though my MIL lives in Chennai India, she still finds ways to send us samples of her pickles! Her recent shipment included these three delicious pickles (oorakai, roughly translated as soaked unripe fruit).
1. Manjal & Mangai Ingie - Turmeric & Mango Ginger Root
2. Manjal & Elimichampazham- Turmeric & Lime/Lemon
3. Vepilaikatti - Lime, Citron, and Curry Leaf Balls
All three are homemade, and she sent me the recipes for the first two so that I can share them with you all. I had a little doubt typing this up and reading her recipe, I wasn't sure if Mango Ginger meant mango + ginger, but I knew it didn't taste like that. So I found some great information about this on a similar post at Vaishali's Happy Burp. Mango Ginger (Curcuma Amada) is the name of a root that is from the same family as turmeric.
I can't tell you how good eating these roots make you feel. Here are some of the mango ginger root properties taken from Kissan Kerala.
"An appetizer, antipyretic, aphrodisiac and laxative. It is useful in biliousness, itching, skin diseases, bronchitis, asthma, hiccough and inflammation due to injuries. The rhizomes and roots are carminative and stomachic and in crushed pulp form they are applied over contusions, sprains and bruises for rapid healing."
I love reading about the medicinal characteristics of spices, herbs, and vegetables that are used in South Indian traditional cooking. Learning about them makes me appreciate the breadth of knowledge that our forefathers had and how their lifestyles were so organically healthy.
Turmeric is known for its antiseptic qualities, and women in South Indian rub on their skin (it turns their skin yellow too!). In South Indian Brahmin homes it is traditional to present married women with manjal roots and vermillion. The little goody bag in the picture is from my wedding, and is filled with small boxes of vermillion, saffron, and turmeric roots. My uncle grows fresh turmeric on his farm in Kerala and brought a huge bag of it for my wedding!
Turmeric Root & Mango Ginger Root Pickle
fresh turmeric root and fresh mango ginger root (enough for 1 cup of minced roots), 2 green chillies, 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp mustard seeds
1. Scrape the skin off the roots and mince them.
2. Mix the turmeric/mango ginger root with salt and lemon/lime juice.
3. Splutter the mustard seeds in a tsp of oil, add the green chili and fry.
4. Add this to the mixture and mix together.
My MIL says that if you cannot find both roots, the same recipe can be followed for plain ginger mango root, or plain turmeric root.
Turmeric Root & Lime Pickle
fresh turmeric root, 1 lime, salt,1 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp coriander powder, 1/2 tsp red chili powder, a pinch of asafetida, 3/4 tsp of salt
1. Scrape the skin off the turmeric roots and cut them in to small pieces.
2. Put it in a ceramic bowl.
3. Cut a lime into small pieces and add to the turmeric roots.
4. Add the salt (really to taste).
5. Heat a few tsp of oil, and splutter the mustard seeds.
6. Lower the heat and add the cumin powder, coriander powder, red chili powder, the asafetida and roast slightly.
7. Add the turmeric root and stir for 2 to 3 minutes.
8. Remove from the heat, add the lime pieces and mix well.
The measurements are just a guide, and should be adjusted to taste.
The veppilaikatti is made by grinding up leaves of citron (narthangai), karivepilai (curry leaves), and lime or lemon leaves with red chillies, salt, and asafetida. Some people also add ajwain or omam seeds. This is ground with the juice of lemons or limes, and salt.