Long ago, when I began traveling with my dear, dear friend, Vaishali Patel, I learned the value of bringing along Achaar Masala to pump up the flavor of dishes I try that turn out to be ho-hum in flavor.
Vaishali grew up in Surat, Gujarat, India until the age of 14 when her family immigrated to California. She is steeped in the traditions of her homeland and constantly introducing me, who must have had a past life in India, to all kinds of things I end up loving. Because of her dedication to Gujarati culture, Vaishali now heads a business called Sanskar Teaching that endeavors to preserve that culture by teaching adults and children the language and all things Gujarati. You can check her out on Instagram if you like.
For whatever reason, Achaar Masala literally makes everything taste SO dang good!
I have an inside track to the best version ever, which turns out I discovered when I asked for the recipe for this post, is a closely guarded secret of her mother-in-law's (who by the way is an amazing cook!). So in lieu of that, I've hunted down a basic recipe plus given you some ideas for some variations you may wish to try. I suggest you experiment to find what you like before taking it on a trip with you.
Achaar Masala Recipe
1/4 cup Split and dehusked Mustard Seeds/Rai dal/Rai na Kuria
1/2 cup Split and dehusked Fenugreek Seeds/Methi dal/Methi na Kuria
4 T Kashmiri Red Chilis
2 T Salt
1tsp Asafetida (Hing)
1/2 cup oil
If your seeds and chilis are whole, run them through a grinder or blender until they become powdered consistency.
Heat the mustard and fenugreek seeds until warm in the open sunlight
In a skillet, dry roast the salt until all the moisture evaporates (about 3-4 mins on low) and set aside until it reaches room temperature.
In another skillet warm the oil on low then set it aside until it reaches room temperature. If you add the oil while hot to the spice mixture, it will turn the vibrant red color to almost black.
In a large bow, add the fenugreek, mustard, chilis, hing and salt. Blend until evenly distributed.
Slowly add a Tablespoon of oil at a time, mixing as you go.
That's it! Store in a sealed container and use it for up to a year.
Here are some ingredients you can add to your masala to mix up the flavors. Experiment until you find something you like best.
2T Coriander seeds
2t Onion Seeds
6T Fennel seeds
1t dry mango powder
Enjoy! I can't wait to hear what good stuff you come up with.
If you don't feel like taking the time to cook up a batch of Achaar Masala yourself, you can buy versions of it ready-made on Amazon. I haven't tried them, so you may need to sample several versions to find that perfect one for your palate.