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Chutney: Many Regions, Many Relishes
In restaurants across the country, diners can bring out their dishes’ flavors with chutney. Groupon gets to the bottom of this multifarious condiment.
Place an order in any Indian restaurant, and your meal is likely to be graced by a ramekin or two of an unidentified relish. This is chutney (or, in India, “chatni”), a traditional condiment that can add concentrated, complex flavor to just about any dish. In the West, some compare it to pickles in function, other to jams and jellies, but these comparisons barely scratch the surface—the forms that chutney takes are as diverse as India itself.
Throughout the country’s many regions, you can find chutneys that are raw or cooked; smooth or chunky; sweet, sour, salty, or spicy. (Indeed, the Hindi word for chutney is derived straightforwardly from the verb for “taste.”) For the most part, chutneys made in India are seasonal—chefs only use the fruits, vegetables, and spices that are growing at the time. Those from Punjab tend toward savory chutneys made with tomatoes and cumin; Himachal Pradesh is known for its succulent guava and eggplant versions; and chefs in West Bengal make many of theirs from sweet mangos, plums, apples, and apricots. Some of these preparations, such as the syrupy fruit blend known as murabba, are even said to have medicinal benefits.
The advent of canning and travel in the early 19th century made it possible for diners in other parts of the world to enjoy Indian chutney, and today, housemade versions are commonly found in restaurants throughout the US and Great Britain. So fond of chutneys were the British that they introduced them to their Caribbean colonies, where native cooks put their own spin on the genre by emphasizing ingredients such as pineapple, cinnamon, and fiery scotch bonnet peppers.