Indian cuisine is powered by a versatile supporting cast, whether it’s pickles, papads, raita spin-offs or offbeat chutneys. Even a tiny dollop holds transformative powers—a humble bajra roti comes alive with the green chilli thecha’s assault of spice, while the cooling (and healthy) amrood chutney takes the heat and guilt off a pakoda binge. Using a creative mix of ingredients, from spices and herbs to fruits, regions from around the country have innovated with various chutneys to lend balance, texture and colour to their meals. Here, we pick some lesser-known supporting acts of Indian cuisine.

Eromba

A popular Manipuri delicacy, eromba is made with boiled vegetables, king chilli and fermented dried fish (ngari is the local choice). While you can use your pick of seasonal vegetables, mushrooms, bamboo shoot, mashed potatoes, cabbage and French beans are safe options for this spicy winter chutney, which pairs beautifully with pork curry and steamed rice.

Hirvi mirchi cha thecha

Green chillies, garlic, peanuts and coriander are all you need to make this formidable Maharashtrian chutney. Alternatively, you can also make a version with red chillies. To make the most of its aromatic flavours, pound the roasted ingredients with a metal or stone pestle instead of grinding in a mixer. And while this chutney is traditionally eaten with jowar bhakris, you can also use it to add a hot, garlicky punch to any meal.

Bhaang chutney

Hemp seeds, a common kitchen ingredient in Uttarakhand and an excellent source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are used to make this quick-and-easy sour chutney (and no, it’s not intoxicating). Roast hemp seeds and cumin seeds separately and then grind them into a smooth paste with whole red chillies. Add a dash of lemon juice to finish.

Ouu khatta

This sweet and sour chutney from Odisha is an essential accompaniment to habisa meals, a local fasting spread during the Karthik months (usually between October-November). Ouu khatta is made with tangy elephant apple (known locally as ouu), which is cooked with mustard paste, jaggery and turmeric and seasoned with crackling curry leaves, dry red chillies and cumin.

Plastic chutney

This oddly-named and mildly-sweet chutney from West Bengal is made with razor-thin papaya slices, which lend it a unique texture and transparent appearance. Heat water and sugar in a cooking pan (2:1 ratio); when the water starts to boil, add the papaya and cook for about 10 minutes. Add raisins and lime juice—cook till the chutney reaches a jam-like consistency. You can also add a tempering of paanch phoron (a Bengali five-spice mix) and red chillies.

Ole chutney

Ole or elephant yam, is the star ingredient of this Bihari chutney, which is usually eaten with pitha (rice flour dumplings) or kachori. To make the chutney, roast boiled yam in mustard oil, green chillies and ground mustard seeds in a pan, and finish with a drizzle of freshly squeezed lime. If you can muster the patience for it, let the chutney rest for a couple of days for its flavours to mature.

Vazhaithandu thogayal

This chutney from Tamil Nadu mines the dietary goodness of banana stems and makes a fine accompaniment to idli, dosas and rice. Once you remove the fibre of the banana stem, chop it into fine pieces and soak in water (add some buttermilk to prevent discolouration). Then fry urad dal, tamarind and dried red chillies in a pan, and add the banana stem pieces. Garnish with a seasoning of simmering curry leaves and mustard seeds.

Akhuni chutney

This hot and pungent Naga chutney is made by fermenting boiled soyabeans in the sun for two-three days. Then, pound roasted red chillies and tomatoes with a pestle—you can also add ginger and garlic to this mix—and make a paste with the fermented soyabeans. The sharp-smelling chutney might not appeal to all palates, but those with an appetite for fermented foods can relish it with a meaty Naga meal.

Amrood adrak chutney

This refreshing summer chutney gives the sweet guava fruit a pungent twist. More commonly found in Haryvanvi cuisine, the amrood adrak chutney is easily prepared by blitzing guava pieces, mint leaves, ginger and cumin seeds in a grinder. It makes for a nourishing companion to an indulgent snack, like a plate of fritters.

Sabbasige soppu

Dill leaves, or sabbasige soppu in Kannada, make a versatile ingredient in Karanataka—the herb can be adopted in a comforting rasam or a refreshing stir-fry with lentils and grated coconut. To make this piquant chutney, grind dill leaves, green chillies, grated coconut, tamarind and ginger. You can also season the chutney with a tempering of urad dal, mustard seeds and curry leaves.

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