While Hyderabad is more famous for its biryani, haleem and other lip-smacking dishes, one can’t ignore its ‘achar’ or pickles.
Achar, along with ‘papad’, adds that extra taste to the typical Hyderabadi spread. Families prefer the spicy achar in different varieties, especially when they go for simple meals, comprising plain rice or ‘khichdi’ and dal.
Achar with ‘papad’ or ‘murkul’ or ‘dahi ki mirchi’ satiate the appetite. Available in different tastes and in different varieties, pickles are all-time favourites and a must for a majority of families, especially for lunch.
From Mir Alam Mandi and Chowk near the historic Charminar to Nampally, one finds many shops selling achar and other items. While pickles made in the unique Hyderabadi style are available at these shops, there are also many outlets in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad selling achar with a distinct Andhra taste. Some traders have also joined the bandwagon by supplying home-made pickles to ‘kirana’ shops.
While mango pickle made of raw mangoes and ‘tarkari ka achar’ or vegetable pickle are the fastest moving item off the shelves, some old Hyderabadi shops are famous for ‘gosht ka achar’ or pickle made of mutton. One also finds ‘leemo’ (lemon) ka achar, ‘imli (tamarind) ka achar’, ‘tamatey (tomato) ka achar’, ‘aamla (gooseberry) ka achar’ or ‘gongura (edible leaf) ka achar’.
Deccan Achar, a leading store in Nampally, sells 30 varieties of pickles and is quite popular with the people.
"We don’t compromise on quality. We use only quality ingredients," Sadiq Bin Mehfooz of Deccan Achar told IANS.
A third-generation businessman, Sadiq said their varieties of achar include ‘chicken achar’, ‘green chilli achar’ and ‘red chilli achar’.
People coming to Hyderabad from other states and even abroad make it a point to buy achar in the city.
"Our achar also goes to the Middle East and other countries," said Sadiq. The NRIs visiting their relatives here buy the famous achar while returning.
Traders say that many families also send achar through friends to their near and dear ones working in the Gulf.
Most of the families in the past used to make the pickles at home. They used to buy ‘kairi’ (raw mango) in huge quantities, cut them into small pieces and store the pickle they made for months. With changing times, people started depending on shops to buy them.
"We don’t get time to make pickles at home and the process is also time-consuming and tedious," Sajida Khatoon, a housewife, told IANS.
This led to many shops mushrooming in different parts of the city. The achar made with more spices and with a Hyderabadi recipe remained everybody’s favourite.
While achar is sold throughout the year, the sales pick up during summer, the mango season.
After mango pickle, lemon and vegetable pickles are in great demand. People also prefer them for their longer shelf-life.
Some shops are also famous for mutton and chicken pickles. For many, especially students and bachelors, these pickles replace curries and save the time they spend on cooking.