01 December 2008

Vidya's Garlic Pickle

My cousin Amanda and her husband Peter lived in Madurai, India for a while (Peter for several years across a couple of stretches) and among the wonderful things they returned with was serious cooking chops, and a book of recipes from their friend Vidya. The shining star of those recipes, without question, is the Garlic Pickle, reproduced below. I just made a batch and even my inexpert execution produced an obscenely tasty result.

Vidya's Garlic Pickle

Highly spiced preserves such as these are served as a condiment with rice meals. Prepare a batch and keep in the fridge. They last for months, getting better with time.


  • 6 to 7 cups of fresh peeled garlic (cloves should not be bigger than ¾ inches in length, and larger cloves should be cut into halves or quarters)
  • 2 cups of fresh Indian sesame oil (do not use Chinese roasted sesame oil)
  • 3 tablespoons fenugreek
  • ¼ cup tamarind concentrate
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons turmeric powder
  • 3 tablespoons black mustard seeds
  • 6 tablespoons red chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


  1. Roast 3 tablespoons of fenugreek in 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, until the fenugreek turns reddish golden. In a blender, grind the fenugreek into a coarse powder. Set aside.
  2. Dissolve the tamarind in 1 cup of water, and set aside.
  3. Heat the remaining sesame oil, and fry the mustard seeds until they pop and turn gray.
  4. Reduce heat to medium, add turmeric and chili powder, and stir thoroughly.
  5. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute.
  6. Add the tamarind water and roasted fenugreek powder, and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat to a simmer.
  8. Add salt and sugar.
  9. Continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes on low heat, stirring gently.
  10. Cool the pickle mix, transfer it to a glass jar or other airtight container, and refrigerate. This pickle can be served right away, but it tastes better after one or two weeks or more of soaking in oil and spices. The recommended serving size varies depending upon an individual’s tolerance for spicy food, but a small servings of one teaspoon is a reasonable starting point. Garlic pickle can be served with any Indian dish, but it is particularly delicious with curd rice.


Unknown said...

Can also be eaten by the spoonful, as you will be tempted to do once you taste it. Don't limit its use to Indian dishes - it really goes well with anything.

NOTE * This is also a good medium for bacteria and mold over time, so only use perfectly clean utensils to scoop it out of its container.

jkd said...

True enough. An excellent condiment on cold-chicken-and-cheddar sandwiches.