1.21.2015 | Issue #9
Chitra Agrawal is probably best known for her runaway site, The ABCD's of Cooking, where the Brooklynite makes (mostly) South Indian vegetarian cooking approachable for the American masses. It's her most recent project though, a line of homemade achaar/oorugaai (Indian pickle for you goras in the house tonight), dubbed Brooklyn Delhi, that's got us all hot and bothered. Since we here at Mise are bonafide achaar obsessives—one of our mothers may or may not have a tub of green mango at the ready for intermittent snacking—we were psyched to hear that Agrawal and husband, sculptor/designer Ben Garthus, have begun to create achaars that deliver their own unique terroir, with ingredients from local farms, and a toned-down salt content that won't sear your taste buds off. That might be part of the classic achaar experience, but you know, probably not prudent.
“It’s a bit of an uphill climb, in a sense, because you’re having to educate store buyers as to how customers are actually going to use this," she says. "You can put it into a similar category as kimchi, in that it’s a type of food that isn't initially familiar to the American market. Traditionally, you eat pickle with rice and daal or a little on the side with chapatis and curry, but it’s been cool to see how people are using it."
Once a year, Agrawal heads back to India to visit family, keep a pulse on the pickle scene, and sniff out new ingredients to smuggle back to Crown Heights. We asked for her top picks for culinary inspiration, and this is where she sent us.
(near Gandhi Bazaar in Basavanagudi Neighborhood)
"My family has been shopping here for decades. They had expanded when we went this last time, which was kind of cool that they’re doing so well. Gandhi Bazaar is a big, big market. If you ask people there, they’ll know where you’re trying to go. You can get spice mixtures here, and they have this famous thing there called Congress peanuts. The peanuts are split in half, which is why they’re called “Congress Peanuts,” but they’re super spicy and very popular. They also make really good, specific South Indian-style snacks."
"I love this market. You can walk through and see all kinds of vegetables you don’t see here. What’s cool about this place is that they have vendors that specifically sell produce for pickling, and making achaar. So you’ll find vendors selling only gooseberries, just tons and tons of them, which is a popular pickle there."
"This is kind of interesting in terms of seeing the variety of foods that are available from region to region in India. It's a little marketplace that sells wares from all over India, and it has a pretty cool food court. It’s a unique place to find inspiration or education on what’s available."
"My great aunt lives near here, and I don’t know if I would call it a destination, but they have this local market there that I think is pretty amazing. Tons of produce, and two pickle vendors that we buy from. This past week when we were there, my Great Aunt was telling them they should carry ours! I buy tons of pickles here and bring them back."
"This is a wholesale spice market in Delhi, and it’s insane. You’ll see men carrying huge bags of spices. There’s pickle vendors on the main drag here and you can sample all of it."