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Mint chutney is a classic East Indian dish that can be prepared fresh or that can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. It is a staple of East Indian cuisine because of the digestive properties of mint. There are many variations on the recipe, but the most basic ingredients are mint, cilantro and lemon juice. This spicy chutney can be used with many types of dishes, adding a unique and complex flavor.
The recipe for mint chutney most often involves adding mint, cilantro, chili peppers and lemon juice to a blender and mixing until it is a smooth liquid. In Indian cuisine, tamarind paste or vinegar might be substituted for the lemon juice. One of the key elements of creating mint chutney is to have fresh ingredients and a balance between the sweet, savory and sour elements.
Mint is very often associated with pork, but mint chutney can be used with a variety of foods. In addition to complementing pork, it can act as a condiment for other meats, such as chicken or veal. It also can add a spicy element to vegetarian meals such as tari aloo or palak paneer. The mint chutney itself is sometimes served alone with fried and baked Indian breads such as paratha and nan.
The herb mint in the chutney is a known digestive. Many Indian dishes often end with some type of digestive, including the popular filled leaves known as paan. Mint contains chemicals that act as anti-inflammatory agents as well as pain relievers, also called analgesics. Although the effects are mild compared to over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, they still have some benefits.
The basic recipe for mint chutney can be easily modified to create a wide array of variations that can be used for nearly any situation. The fundamental recipe itself can be toned down with less mint so it can be used on white fish. It can be enhanced with hotter peppers to be used on beef. More lemon juice or vinegar can be added to create a marinade for meats. It also can have spices added, such as ground coriander or cumin, and then briefly fried to make a sauce for a heavier cuisine.
There are many types of chutneys available, not just mint. Chutneys also can use fruits such as mango and pear. There are herb chutneys made from ingredients such as coriander. The list of possible chutneys is as diverse as Indian cuisine itself.