Bisi Uppinakayi literally means hot pickle or instant pickle. A spicy (duh! as if you did not know!) tongue-tickling, delicious preparation made with hing, ground mustard and roasted methi powder and veggies. The veggies most often being tomatoes, tender goose-berries, raw mangoes or tender fresh tamarind. Hey, grab that tissue, I know that you are drooling like a baby now!! Yeah, now back to Tomato Bisi Uppinakayi.
This is a very common dish at most Madhwa homes in North Karnataka. And of course at weddings and functions too. When we were kids, going to a family function would mean gorging on all the delicious food at the venue and carrying home some bisi-uppnakayi, rasam and the specialty sweets made by the caterers. The caterers would be people associated with the families since generations and would tell us tales about how their fathers and grand-fathers had cooked for our fathers and grand-fathers. One of these 'family' caterers had nick-named me as 'bubble-gum' , thanks to my chubby cheeks:-). He calls me the same even now!! lol!
Some common spices you will find in Madhwa homes are methi powder, mustard powder, and plain huli-pudi ( a mix of fenugreek seeds, coriander and jeera) apart form the regular sambar, rasam and vangi bhath powders. This pickle makes a superb companion to hot rice or chapatis. Its very easy and quick to make specially if you have mustard powder and methi powder in your fridge.
Read on to know how you can have this on your plate for your next meal!
Before we move on to the recipe, I would like to bore you with my two bits of knowledge on the varieties of tomatoes I know and whats best suited for this recipe.
There are the farm tomatoes or apple or hybrid tomatoes and then there are the non-hybrid or naati or javari tomatoes. The ones on the left are the hybrid tomatoes, on the right are the naati ones. The hybrid variety is longish in shape, not very sour and is best suited for salads, barbeques or juices. The other variety is more round in shape, quite sour and imparts a great flavor to the dish its added in. I love to use this in my rasam and sambar, sometimes omitting the tamarind pulp altogether to get the intense taste of tomato in the dish. In Bangalore, shops usually sell the hybrid tomatoes and the non-hybrid ones are sold on carts. We grew up eating only the non-hybrid ones and the farm tomatoes were an introduction to us when we grew up.
I have used a mix of both the varieties here. You can choose whatever suits your palate. I have used 2 sour tomatoes and the rest are hybrid tomatoes here. I wanted the pickle flavorful without being too sour. You can use only one variety, but you would need to alter the proportion of the red chilli powder and jaggery depending on the tartness and balance out the taste. If the tomatoes you are using lack sourness, try adding a teaspoon of thick tamarind pulp.
Try not to add more mustard powder as it will give a funny taste, more of methi powder will make the pickle bitter.
Fresh Tomatoes- 500 grams
Methi ( fenugreek seeds) Powder - 1/4 teaspoon
Mustard powder - 1 teaspoon
Red Chilli Powder - 1 teaspoon
Jaggery - 1 teaspoon (Use 1/2 teaspoon if you like your pickle tart)
Hing - A generous pinch
Oil- 3 teaspoons plus 1 teaspoon
Curry leaves - A few
Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Salt - To taste
Procedure: To prepare the methi powder, dry roast the methi seeds on a low flame. Roast till it emits a good aroma. Cool and powder it really fine. You will not get a fine consistency if you roast very little, its worthwhile to make about 3-4 teaspoons of it while you are at it. Keeps fresh in the fridge for about a month.
To prepare the mustard powder, just grind the mustard seeds coarsely (no roasting needed). Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Wash and chop the tomatoes into small cubes. Heat 3 teaspoons oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds. When they sputter lower the heat. Add the hing, turmeric powder and the chopped tomatoes. Add about a table spoon of water, cover and cook the tomatoes on medium heat. Cook till the tomatoes are pulpy and well cooked, adding water if needed in between. Take care not to add too much of water or the pickle will become very watery.
Once the tomatoes are cooked, add the mustard powder, methi powder, salt, jaggery and chili powder. Simmer for about 10 minutes on low heat. Take off the heat.
Now for the final touch - Heat one tea spoon oil. Add the curry leaves and a dash of hing. Pour it over the pickle. Stir it in. Aaah!!! Make sure you have some rice or chapatis ready by this time or you may end up eating only the pickle for a meal :-))
Please Note: This can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days.