Vinegar in India-A Soury Tale




As I experiment with cooking in other cuisines, my shelf of ingredients becomes more and more crowded. Virgin Olive oil has taken permanent residence there, as has Balsamic vinegar. I also keep red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and white vinegar, most of them to infuse a particular type of acidity to my salad dressings.

Going by the labels and the countries of origin on the bottles of vinegar in the supermarket you would think that vinegar has never been produced in India.

Surprise! Country vinegar has been produced in India for a very long time for use in medicines ( called sirca) and  food. Since vinegar can be produced from almost anything which has sugar or starch,  each area made vinegar from different materials. In Bengal from Jamun fruit and Palmyra sap, in U.P from sugarcane juice, from coconut in the South , from jaggery and sugarcane in Calcutta and from raisins, palm sap, grapes, mahua flowers and toddy in other parts of India .

Since vinegar is best made from converting  sugar into alcohol  it soon came under legislation in India. In 1948, licences were required for vinegar manufacture and it moved into the hands of big business. Since then till recently the most popularly available has been a rather tasteless synthetic acetic acid vinegar. By the way synthetic vinegar is illegal for food use in most other countries.

My favourite indigenous vinegar is made from toddy in Goa which I pick up locally when there. It is just fabulous for cooking and salads. It is made by storing coconut toddy in barrels, in a warm and humid place for several months and letting it slowly ferment. After filtering and decanting it makes a really good vinegar. Like all good vinegars it is aged and has lost that sharp , biting and raw taste which fresh vinegar has.

Cottage units in India mostly produce fresh vinegar made from coconut molasses, mango and other ingredients for pickling purposes and these are not very nice.

You are lucky if you can get home made natural vinegar. Orange and pineapple vinegar was once available in India as a by- product of the fruit growing industry and it would be wonderful if the production of all those old  types of aged vinegars were encouraged again. There are artisanal vinegar producers all over the world. Why not here? We already have a wealth of recipes from ancient times and a range of wonderful ingredients...........

P.S.One good vinegar available here is Coconut Vinegar from Goana  Foods.

Green Peppers and Chicken Pasta


Pasta should, I think, be served with a more substantial sauce than it usually is.I like it to be 60-40 with the pasta constituting the lesser amount.

I like to build up the sauce , like we do curries here, letting the flavours get more complex as the ingredients are added one by one.


1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion

1 tsp ground garlic

4 tomatoes, blended into pulp

5 sundried  tomatoes, cut into strips

3 green peppers/ simla mirch

Handful of basil leaves

Salt  and pepper to taste

2 full Chicken legs, cooked .

1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese. ( optional)

100 gms fusilli per person


Take the cooked chicken off the bones and reserve the stock.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil for the pasta. Drop in the pasta and cook till al dente, about 12 minutes. Strain and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Meanwhile heat the olive oil and saute the garlic and onions in it for five minutes. Add the tomato pulp and chopped sun dried tomatoes and cook for 10 more minutes. Add the chopped  chicken,green peppers, the salt and pepper and cook for 15 minutes.If you need it to be a bit more saucy add  some of the chicken stock.

Add torn basil leaves in the last five minutes of cooking.

Pour a generous amount over each bowl of pasta and serve garnished with some grated parmesan.

Green Tomato Garlic Chutney


Green Tomatoes

While green tomatoes are available in abundance its the time to pickle and chutney.This recipe is quick to make but keeps for only three weeks in the fridge so don't make a vast amount.

.Green tomato Chutney

Photo Courtesy: Emma Jane Hogbin


250 gms green tomatoes

6 gms salt

50 ml vinegar ( use toddy vinegar if possible)

10 gms red Bedgi or Kashmiri chillies, ground

1 tbsp ground garlic

2 tbsp fresh ginger,grated

10 gms salt

250 gms sugar


Wash and chop the green tomatoes removing the eyes. Marinate the chopped tomatoes in 6 gms of salt for 12 hours.Saute the tomatoes in vinegar till tender. Add the rest of the ingredients and keep cooking over low heat till they mix well and become mushy.When it gels it is ready. This will take at least 15- 20 minutes.

Keep in a clean sterilized jar in the fridge and use within 2-3 weeks.