Taste of the Caribbean: Kuchela Adds True Trini Flavor to Almost Anything
Where would we be without the British and their once aggressive, often oppressive colonial-era entrepreneurial dealings in India? After all, they effectively popularized such staples as cotton, silk and tea in the Western world during the 17th and 18th centuries, and who doesn’t like to sip tea while wearing silk boxers and a cotton T-shirt?
Okay, so maybe you prefer coffee and your silk boxers have been lining the bottom of your unmentionables drawer since 1985; you can’t argue with the ongoing importance of cotton (unless you spend all your time here).
For many in the Caribbean there’s another Indian export that rates about as highly as the fluffy white stuff – chutney.
A distinctly Indian condiment, chutney is a blend of vegetables or fruits with spices and chilies that comes in a wide variety of flavors. When they got their hands on it, the British took a bit of the bite (i.e.: spice) out of traditional Indian chutney, emphasizing the sweet, fruity flavor in line with European palates to create jams like Major Grey’s that most of us know today.
In Trinidad, however, where about 50% of the population has Indian roots, the opposite approach was taken.
Spices were amped up, bringing out more of the salty and sour elements, while the fruit flavor was toned-down. The result was a new and uniquely Trinidadian chutney called kuchela.
Different folks combine the spices and ingredients at varying levels, of course, but the main ingredient in any kuchela is grated green mangoes. A special blend of spices called amchar is also added alongside garlic and chili to provide, as it says right on the bottle of Matouk’s pictured above, “a mouth watering dimension to any recipe.”
Mix it with curry chicken and rice, drop a dab inside a roti, even add it to scrambled eggs – kuchela works with just about anything, making it one of the easiest ways to add a true taste of Trinidad to your food.
- 12 Green Mangoes
- 3 Heads of Garlic
- 5-6 Hot Peppers
- 1 Packet of Anchar masala
- 1-1.5 Cups of Mustard Oil
- Salt to Taste
If you’re not lucky enough to live near a West Indian grocery store that carries Matouck’s, or one of several other kuchela brands, you can always try ordering it online, or making your own. Here’s a recipe from our favorite cookbook…
Peel and grate mangoes, squeezing some liquid from the fruit into the grated pile. Spread the grated fruit on a flat surface and let dry for a full day, or place in an oven on low heat for a few hours. Mince garlic and peppers together, then combine with the grated mango, garlic, pepper, anchar masala and salt in a large bowl. Finally blend in mustard oil and spoon the mixture into sterilized bottles for storage.