For context, just so no one gets lost, pickling is a method of food preservation and a “pickle” encompasses a very wide array of food items apart from the jars of tiny cucumbers that North Americans call pickles. We have a tendency in the Philippines to think of pickles like the Americans do as a result of half a century of American colonization. The German sauerkraut and the Korean kimchi are both pickled cabbage, the Filipino achara is pickled green papaya and just about every culture has an assortment of pickled food.
So, I found jars of pickle in Assad Mini-Mart (U.N. Avenue, Manila), Sam and I wanted to buy so many but since we’ve never tried Indian pickles before, we went the prudent route and chose only one — this one with mango, carrot, lemon and green chili. We’ve been pairing it with fried food, very sparingly as the stuff is really strong, and it’s definitely not something we’d prefer to have everyday but more of something we’d like to enjoy occasionally for a change.
What does the mixed pickle taste like exactly? Spicy, not very salty, lots of heat and with a very complex flavor base.
And how does it smell? Okay, most people use the word “pungent” to describe very strong aromas. I used to do that but not anymore. Pungent just isn’t the right word as it connotes something unpleasant. The new generation of celebrity chefs have substituted the word funky for pungent but it means the same thing — unpleasant, smelly and weird. So, funky isn’t the right word either.
The stuff smells heady — yes, that would a more apt description. Heady, potent, strong — make your choice — but not pungent nor funky. That’s how strong spices affect the sense of smell — in proper amounts, they can be exhilarating; in exaggerated amounts, the nose tends to get an overdose and the experience is not pleasant at all.
So, when eating food with lots of spices, like this mixed pickle, do so in small amounts unless you are really used to the stuff and you crave it in large dosages. When I have the mixed pickle with fried fish, for instance, a pinch with every spoonful tastes just right. More than that and I can’t taste the fish anymore.