City Food – Shri Sai Pickle Store, Old Subzi mandi, Gurgaon
The achar lane.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The entire lane in Gurgaon’s Old Subzi Mandi in the National Capital region is smelling deliciously pungent. And why won’t it be? After all, it is lined on both sides with half a dozen pickle stalls. Plastic vessels are stuffed with a dizzying diversity of pickles and preservatives, the very air suffused with the intense scents of mango achar, matar achar, karela achar, dela achar, shaljam-gobhi-gaajar achar, nimbu achar, lehsun achar, karonda achar, and lasua achar. One noteworthy shop has all of these varieties, plus delicious looking apple and amla murabbas that are filled in giant containers.
This establishment is the most special of them all.
Shri Sai Pickle Store was the first pickle shop to open in the area about 14 years ago. “We are actually from Rewari,” says owner Rohit Dhingra, referring to a nearby town. The young gentleman often greets the passes-by with a friendly Ram-Ram. An enthusiastic ambassador of his so-called “homey pickles,” he now exhorts a buyer to “at least taste my new mango pickles flavoured with heeng.” Next moment, the smooth charmer gently persuades an elderly lady to try the sweet lemon achar. “Return it to me aunty if you don’t like it… I’ll take it back even if you come after four months!” “Aunty” is looking all floored.
The pickles at Sai are made at a “factory in Rewari.” The business was founded by Mr Dhingra’s grandfather, the late Ram Kishen. “Our first shop is still there in Rewari… near the Civil Hospital.”
Over the years, the Gurgaon shop has built up a solid base of customers who come from across the city, as can be witnessed this afternoon.
While it is tough to point out the best-selling pickle “because all customers have their own preferences,” the universally popular varieties tend to be mango and mixed pickles.
Soon a long-time client arrives from Sushant Lok to get his regular supply of green chilly achar.
The shop opens daily throughout the year except on Holi, from 8am to 9pm.
(PS: May be a sign of evolving times but the shop also has a small space dedicated to customised “mixed masalas” for… pasta!)