SHIKARPUR: It is, of course, available all over the country and even abroad but buying Shikarpur achaar in Shikarpur is an experience in itself. Every market has an achaar shop after every two or three shops selling something else.
Facing the famous Ghanta Ghar, which gives the correct time at least twice in 24 hours, in Lakhi Dar is Moula Bakhsh Memon, or MBM, the oldest achaar shop of the city. “Achaar from our shop is available in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the UK, too,” says Maqsood Ahmed, a salesman at the shop.
But what goes abroad is different from what’s consumed here. “For local markets, we have the usual mustard oil based pickles but we also have the super quality pickles made in soybean oil for export. Mustard oil, as you know, is appreciated more in Punjab. Besides, soybean oil has a longer shelf life, too, and remains fresh for longer,” he says.
The pickles bought from Shikarpur also cost far less than anywhere else. An 800-gram bottle of mixed pickles will cost Rs50 and a kilogram jar of the export quality is for Rs200 only. “We have our own branches in Quetta and Sukkur but then our pickles reach across the country thanks to the buyers. We are aware that after buying from us they are selling the same jars at double or triple the costs but that’s up to them really. It’s business and the product is very good, you’ll agree,” he says.
The most popular of all the Shikarpur pickles variety is the mixed achaar comprising carrots, turnip, cauliflower, chickpeas, garlic, green chillies, lime and mango, says Irfan Ali, owner of Nawab Achaar, adding that the pickles may be oil-based or vinegar-based but what sets them apart from other pickles is really Shikarpur’s water. “We have sweet ground water and the vegetables grown here and cooked in the same water taste fantastic,” he explains.
“Just as Hyderabadi pickles are known throughout the world, Shikarpur pickles also have their significance, especially the homemade ones,” says Zaibunissa Bibi, a housewife who prepares the pickles at home and also sells them from there. “I don’t need to market my pickles; those who buy from me publicise it, too,” she smiles as she goes about preparing the jars of various varieties after carefully noting down the orders from customers visiting her at home. The spices for the pickles, she also prepares at home and she has kept pickles made from different vegetables in separate jars from where she takes out small portions to mix into a smaller jar with the other varieties to mix up a mouthwatering concoction. The pickles are also sold out of many homes in Shikarpur.
“I live in Shirarpur and keep couriering boxes full of pickles and chutney for my friends living in other big cities and abroad. One family in London sends in orders every couple of months,” saysAbdul Jabbar, a customer, loading boxes in a qingqi. “I basically prefer buying from the shops here rather than going for the homemade variety as most homemade pickles are water-based or vinegar-based, which may keep fresh during winter but may be spoiled if left outside for long during the summers,” the customer says.
Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2014