Chutney ID
November 6, 2010 7:39 AM   Subscribe

Chutney Identification: I tried some chutney at an Indian restaurant and it was one of the worst things I've ever put in my mouth. What was it?

Forgive me if this post maligns your cuisine, but I'd like to identify this chutney, partly so that I'm sure never to put it in my mouth again.

I have no problem with most Indian chutneys, but this stuff was a whole different world. It looked like chopped mixed vegetables, not spicy, but pungent with a peculiar ammonia/chlorine taste that was very un-food-like.

What was this stuff? Or maybe it was something that had just gone bad?
posted by schrodycat to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It does malign my cuisine, but I don't care :) More details please? (color, consistency?)
Did it look like this or this? In that case it may have been mixed vegetable pickle, not chutney. Some brands have weird tasting preservatives in them.
posted by prenominal at 7:49 AM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bombay duck is made into a pickle. I'm not sure it's supposed to ferment in the same way that a lot of east Asian fish pastes do, but it would explain an ammonia smell if it had. Even if it hadn't, is it possible you were noticing the dried fish smell/taste and not liking it? (Here's another recipe)
posted by Ahab at 8:02 AM on November 6, 2010

If you ever visit an Indian supermarket and buy any of the cheaper brands of mixed pickle, you'll quite likely end up with something that tastes pretty bad, often in a chemical-y way. I'd agree with prenomial that is sounds like a mixed vegetable pickle.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:06 AM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, my guess is that pickle concoction. It kind of tastes like Picadilly Chow Chow to me...also nasty.
posted by Beardman at 8:17 AM on November 6, 2010

Was it spicy? It could have been lime pickle (which I love, but I can imagine would be an acquired taste).
posted by exceptinsects at 8:58 AM on November 6, 2010

It sounds like lime or badly-made mango pickle to me, especially if it was kinda salty or spicy. Most Indians don't get the ammonia taste, having grown up with the stuff, but lots of non-Indians (including me) who are first exposed to the stuff find it very un-food-like. I still can't eat lime pickle because of the ammonia-scent, but home-made pickles of other types (mango, mixed vegetable) are tasty in small portions now.
posted by Gori Girl at 10:43 AM on November 6, 2010

Another vote for a bad pickle, but I too would like more details.
posted by madman at 11:47 AM on November 6, 2010

I would also guess lime pickle, as it often gets a reaction and can be very bitter.
posted by galaksit at 11:59 AM on November 6, 2010

I'm guessing that it was a bad pickle.

I've learned to love good quality Indian pickles, but I have to eat them with a lot of rice because the flavor is so dense.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:24 PM on November 6, 2010

Another vote for mixed pickle, but I'd love to hear some more description.
posted by bardophile at 1:50 PM on November 6, 2010

Also, maybe it had heeng in it? Asafoetida, that is. Definitely an acquired taste.
posted by bardophile at 1:52 PM on November 6, 2010

I'm with bardophile - maybe it had overly much (to your taste) hing/asafoetida in it? Asafoetida (yes, the middle of that word is the same root as "fetid") has a very pronounced stinky, garlic/onion smell and taste, especially when un- or under-cooked.

My other guess, seasoning-wise, is that maybe it contained a fair bit of black salt, which is another rather acquired taste, if you didn't grow up with it. It has a strong sulfurous flavor, and could definitely give you something that would translate as ammonia/chemical flavor.
posted by jocelmeow at 2:49 PM on November 6, 2010

Response by poster: OP here. The concoction looked a lot like this, with pieces of various vegetables including what looked like okra.

Pickles seems to be the best guess. I suppose they could be either cheap or bad, but this was in a fairly pricy Indian restaurant in the greater Boston area, so I would have expected good quality food.

As for the other more obscure guesses, we may never know.

So I think I'll stay away from Indian pickles from now on!

Thanks to everyone.
posted by schrodycat at 4:17 PM on November 6, 2010

schrodycat: "OP here. The concoction looked a lot like this...this was in a fairly pricy Indian restaurant in the greater Boston area, so I would have expected good quality food."

I'm going with lime pickle, too. It looks like what you ate, and your description sounds right. Just so you know, it's an acquired taste for many new eaters, so it's very possible that you got great quality pickle and just didn't like it. (I love it but it took a few tries...)
posted by DarlingBri at 4:24 PM on November 6, 2010

Pickles vary in taste tremendously, based on which spices have been used. In general, I think it's pretty safe to go by smell with them. If you don't like the way it smells, you probably won't like the way it tastes. And chutneys, especially the sweet ones, aren't nearly as powerful. So you would want to take a VERY small bit of pickle to begin with. I think you'd be depriving yourself if you stayed away from Indian pickles altogether.
posted by bardophile at 4:32 PM on November 6, 2010

I think it may have been a mixed pickle called Pachranga. The "okra" was probably lotus stem. I don't like it either because I hate the taste of mustard oil.
posted by prenominal at 5:11 PM on November 6, 2010

I didn't grow up with either asafoetida or black salt. I can barely taste the former in my food (isn't it something that is supposed to enhance/build on other flavors?) and find the latter a perfectly acceptable, if slightly strange, taste. And I have been to India and eaten local non-tourist food there, for months. Maybe I'm weird for a white girl, but I highly doubt it was either of those things. Unless there was a very bad mistake at the restaurant.
posted by Sara C. at 8:22 PM on November 6, 2010

Can you call the restaurant to find out? Let us know if you end up doing that.
posted by cynicalidealist at 8:10 AM on November 7, 2010

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