Vishu Sadya meals are incomplete for me without blogging about one of my most favourite pickle which is traditionally made specially for Vishu and Onam Sadya. Yes, I am talking about Puli Inji or the Kerala Sweet and Sour Ginger Pickle. The pickle sets your taste buds on fire with its combination of tangy, sweet and spice elements.
“Puli” means Tamarind and “Inji” is known as Ginger. These 2 elements are the most important for this particular recipe. This is my mother’s recipe, an ace pickle maker and someone who I have observed all my 25 years learning the art of fine pickle making. Check out recipes of Mango Thokku, Instant Raw Mango Pickle, Figs Thokku, Apple Thokku and Green chilli pickle.
Puli Inji requires a good amount of finely chopped ginger, green chillies and tamarind. Jaggery adds the sweet element to the pickle. Slow Cooking the pickle on low heat with good quality tamarind is the key to the dark caramel colour of the pickle. There are many ways of making puli inji. Some like it thick sort of jam consistency (the way I prefer too) while the others like it a bit too runny. The proportions of ginger, tamarind and green chillies vary too. Some family recipes prefer grating or mincing the ginger while ours prefer the finely chopped version, which is usually the way it is served in Sadyas or any South Indian Wedding too.
The Puli Inji has a good shelf life (say a month) but frankly speaking if you are like me, who awaits an opportunity to savour this pickle right from breakfast to dinner, then chances are, it won’t last even a week. I make a small batch of this pickle just for the Vishu celebrations else I over indulge. Having an over sensitive skin which is very prone to acne when pickles and papads are consumed, I dare don’t attempt making a big batch. Sigh!
Even though a spoonful of this fiery, lipsmacking pickle is placed on the banana leaf right at the corner, one cannot ignore it. Simply because when the last course of Curd Rice arrives, your gaze only stops at this pickle. Trust me, a bowl of thayir sadam or curd rice with this pickle – Enough Said!
Some tips to follow while making Puli Inji at home –
- The dark colour of the pickle is due to the quality of tamarind used. Use a darker variety – Almost black in colour. See the pic in recipe method. You can buy this from any grocery store that sells South Indian essentials. Alternatively, if you cannot source this particular variety, use normal tamarind. The pickle colour would be brown, that’s all, without any compromise in taste.
- I have used an organic variety of Jaggery. Some varieties of Jaggery differs in taste and sweetness. Try to taste while cooking and add more if required.
- Try scouting for tender ginger variety, the one that is slightly soft and smooth to bite (less fibrous strands). They are also deeply aromatic and taste amazing as the pickle ages. Not to mention, they are easier to peel and chop.
- Green chillies are a must in this recipe. You can add more or use less, as per your spice tolerance. Don’t skip this entirely if you are looking for a traditional recipe.
- Good Quality Sesame Oil – Any pickle calls for good quality oil and this recipe is no less. Sesame oil is the number one choice at home for all my pickles.
Let us now look at the recipe, shall we? Promise to make a batch of this and share with me? Shall be waiting! In the meanwhile, Wishing all my readers a very happy Vishu / Tamil Puthandu / New Year. May our lives be filled with good food, love and health! Cheers!
Shall see you all next week as it’s time to gear up for the celebration mode at home!
Recipe for Puli Inji / Kerala Sweet and Sour Ginger Pickle for Sadya
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 to 30 minutes
Serves a bowl of Pickle that can be stored for a month in refrigerator
1 cup is 250ml measurement
- 1 no. Large Lemon Size Tamarind Ball (see the picture)
- 1 1/4th cup Hot water + 1 cup of warm water
- 1/2 heaped cup of finely chopped ginger (125 ml measurement)
- 10 nos. long green chillies (see the pics in method)
- 1/2 cup of roughly chopped jaggery (see the pics in method)
- 1 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 tsp Red chilli powder
- A generous pinch of asafoetida or hing
- 5 tblsp sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- 4 whole dry red chillies
- salt to taste
(1) Soak the lemon sized tamarind ball in 1 1/4 cup hot water for atleast 15 minutes and keep aside.
(2) Wash, peel and finely chop the ginger as shown below. Note – Do no discard the peels. Please check the recipe notes at the end.
(3) Wash, pat dry and roughly chop the green chillies as show below.
(4) Squeeze the soaked tamarind and collect the thick liquid.
(5) Now add 1 cup of warm water to the tamarind, repeat the squeezing process to collect some more tangy liquid extract. Strain this and keep aside.
(6) Now heat a pan or kadhai, add oil.
(7) Add mustard seeds to the hot oil and once they crackle, add whole red chillies and some hing.
(8) Now add the finely chopped ginger or adrak and saute this on low heat until the ginger slightly softens (say 3 to 5 minutes).
(9) Add the green chillies and saute well for another 2 to 3 minutes.
(10) To the ginger and green chillies mixture, add the strained tamarind pulp.
(11) Add a tsp of turmeric powder and red chilli powder and stir everything well. Add salt to taste.
(12) Now let this simmer on low heat until the raw tamarind smell vanishes and the liquid volume slightly reduces. This takes about 10 to 15 minutes on low flame. PS – Keep stirring this every now and then.
(13) Once the raw smell has vanished, add the jaggery and stir well.
(14) The pickle will slowly start to thicken with the jaggery melting and providing the caramelized texture.
(15) Now is also a good time to check salt and add more if required.
(16) Keep stirring the pickle at regular interval until it has become thick and sort of deep dark caramel texture.
(17) Switch off the flame and allow it to cool completely before transferring to a clean, dry glass jar with a tight lid.
(18) Keep this refrigerated for a month or more.
Store the Ginger peels in an air tight box and use it to infuse water, adrak / ginger tea etc. It has amazing health benefits and especially good for your stomach during summers. The peels stay good in the refrigerator for a week in an airtight box.
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