The Chettiars are an old banking and financial community in India, and especially present in southern India. The Chettiars are considered to be among the pioneers of organized banking in the country. They are also credited with introducing the concept of double entry book-keeping. This community from the south of Tamil Nadu has left a silent signature on everything from manufacturing to banking to films. And on food. Chettiar cuisine is characterized by aromatic and spicy foods with fresh ground masalas and lots of seafood and meat, except beef and pork.
Some Chettiars are originally from Burma where they functioned as moneylenders and contributed significantly to the economic development of Burma. Hence a lot of Chettinad food has Burmese and Malay influences.
This dish is a spicy pickle/ side that tastes great with idlis and dosas. And even as a spread on toast. It is spicy, tart and sweet.
2 cups small Onions, chopped fine
1 cup Tomato, chopped fine
6-8 cloves Garlic, chopped fine
8-10 (or according to how spicy you'd like it) dried Red Chillies
1 tsp Chilli Powder
1 tsp Tamarind extract
1 tbsp (or according to how sweet you'd like it) Jaggery
3-4 tbsp Sesame Oil
Salt, to taste
Roast the chillies without oil for 4-5 minutes. Cool and then break them into 3-4 pieces each.
Add the sesame oil to a frying pan. Add the dry roasted chillies and fry for a few minutes. Add the onions and garlic and salt and fry very well until the onions are translucent.
Now add the tomatoes and stir fry until soft. Add the chilli powder and mix well. Continue to cook on a low flame. The oil will start to separate in the pan. Now add the tamarind extract. Continue cooking on low until the smell of tamarind has gone. Now add the jaggery and stir to combine. Cook on a low flame stirring occasionally until it becomes thick. Cook on low for as long as possible for the best results.
Let cool and transfer to a sealed container. This can last up to a week or longer in the refrigerator. Or, like in my house, it can be finished in one meal!