In Sri Lanka, the acharu woman was a permanent fixture of the top road. She sat there on the dusty sidewalk in front of a pot into which she had put chopped mangoes, gleaming yellow like slivers of sun, vinegar, chili, salt and sugar to make a fresh pickle, acharu. She would serve it to us in a cone of newspaper and it was a race to eat all the acharu before the liquid soaked through to your fingers. If it did soak through, there was of course the pleasure of licking your fingers. If you happened to also swallow some printing ink, well, that was a risk worth taking.
I serve this now as a side dish with a meal. The recipe calls for quite a bit of chili, but that’s the point of acharu.If you are wary, cut the amount of chili while making it and then add more once the mixing of all the ingredients is done till you think it’s hot enough for you and your guests.
- 2 kg Firm young mangoes
- 4 tsp Chili powder
- 1 or 2 tsp Chili flakes
- 3 tsp Salt
- 4 tbsp Sugar
- 500 ml White or apple vinegar
- Wash the 2 kg mangoes
- Chop the 2 kg mangoes with the skin on into bite size chunks. If the mangoes are young and the seeds have not formed fully, scoop out the soft growing seeds and chop the mangoes. If the mangoes have formed the hard outer shell of their seed, cut down the sides of the mango close to the seed and chop these 'cheeks'.
- Add 4 tsp chili powder
- Add 1 or 2 tsp chili flakes
- Add 3 tsps salt
- Add 4 tbsp sugar
- Add 500 ml vinegar
- Mix all of this together thoroughly with a spoon or your hands
- Put the acharu into a glass bottle. Push it down as you do this, You want to make sure there are no air bubbles in the acharu. Make sure the mango mixture is fully covered by vinegar. If not, add vinegar till it is well covered. This is to prevent it spoiling.