IN CONVERSATION WITH PICKLE SHICKLE’S PREETIKA CHAWLA
WORDS BY THE CITY STORY TEAM
If you opened a jar of pickle and found mango, lemon, or even carrot in it, you wouldn’t be surprised. You’d expect to see them, even. But pork? That’s a new one. The City Story spoke to Preetika Chawla, one half of the duo behind Pickle Shickle, the independent brand pickling pork and other unusual foods.
You can find out more about Pickle Shickle from their Facebook page or email them at email@example.com
The City Story: Tell us a short story on Pickle Shickle.
Preetika Chawla: Pickle Shickle has a short story at the moment, even though (without us knowing it) it’s been the narrative of our lives! In a nutshell, the pork pickle is something we grew up with. It is our grandma’s special recipe, and even mum would make it all the time. My sister, Prerna, and I moved to Mumbai 15 and 11 years ago, respectively, and when our mum would visit, there are two things we’d make her cook for us in copious amounts: dal makhni and pork pickle.
Our friends soon hopped on the bandwagon and began demanding jars. At one point this became awkward for our friends, and they started offering to pay for it because, “Let’s face it. We can’t not have it.” They insisted, and so one day, we began selling the pickle, and there’s been no turning back ever since.
We began (informally) in August 2016, and since then we have grown quite organically. We started with the classic Pork Pickle and eventually started bottling Prawn Pickle. Soon after the vegetarian options of Jackfruit and Lotus Stem was introduced.
When it came to naming the company, we were on a Skype call with our childhood friend, and actually she named us Pickle Shickle, on a lark, sitting in Chicago. But we loved it! And the name stuck.
Our brand philosophy is really quite simple, and that is to be a part of every home and every kitchen, making people’s food experience more fun!
At pop-ups we usually do live food with our pickles. Tacos, sliders, poppers, baked potatoes with sour cream and pickle… the list could go on! It’s very versatile, and that’s something we love encouraging people to explore.
TCS: Why pickles? India is the heart of pickles, and every corner shop has multitudes of pickle brands and varieties. What made you want to be a part of this section of the food industry?
PC: Why pickles is a tough question to answer, because the plan wasn’t to make this a business. We thought we were doing it just for our close friends! I guess the answer would be: because our friends said so, that’s why.
Having said that, the encouragement people showed us by constantly coming back for more gave [us] a high. We were excited to be able to share a close part of us with everybody! Our only aim with our pickles has been to maintain the homely touch. We have people writing in, telling us that our pickles are unlike other store-bought ones for exactly this reason. We cook in small batches and have continued to do that despite the increase in demand.
I suppose the love we have received in this section of the industry is what has kept us going. People nowadays are very busy. They don’t necessarily have the time to cook elaborate meals every day. So they’re looking for ways to add a “kick” to a boring meal. Or have access to an easy midnight snack (pickle and bread). Or make a simple finger food more exciting (tacos, poppers, etc.).
It’s been really fascinating to be in this section of the food industry and yet function as a bit of an island, because we are not here to compete. We wouldn’t dare. There are some fantastic brands out there, with equally fabulous recipes in the industry. But that’s just it; we are not industry.
TCS: Who are your customers? And what’s the pickle that’s flying off the shelves?
PC: Our customers are largely between the ages of 15 and 45. Anybody with a job. Or not. Anybody who has time. Or not. Sneaky non-vegetarians who aren’t allowed meat in their homes take jars and hide them!
The vegetarian pickles (lotus stem, jackfruit, and mushroom) are, to our surprise, our highest sellers. The Pork and Prawn Pickles are a close second. We will soon start mutton, the response to which has already been overwhelming (based on tasters).
TCS: Did Mumbai have a part to play with your brand? What’s your relationship with the city?
PC: Mumbai had a massive part to play with our brand. It was created for (and by) practitioners from the theatre community of this city. I think being actors and production people for several years equipped us with two things: the ability to take a risk, dive into the unknown. And the second is to use instinct.
Mumbai teaches you to ride the wave and adapt to just about any situation. It is a cruel city with the kindest people, where anything is possible! Our relationship with the city can best be described in one sentence: It is now our home. And Pickle Shickle is an extension of our home.
TCS: Where’s Pickle Shickle headed?
PC: We hope all the way across the world in the next few years. Most of our friends overseas (whether they are Indian or not) demand vacuum sealed supplies by the kilo! So why not dream of selling everywhere someday?
We have recently started deliveries in Delhi and are in the shelves of The Taste in Defence Colony. Our vegetarian pickles are on the shelves of Cornucopia in Matunga. Certain shelves in Goa are on the anvil too (very excited!). We are working on our website at the moment, so that people across the country (and eventually the world) can order too.
Hopefully we have a long, long, fun journey ahead of us. So far, we have met the most wonderful people along the way. We certainly hope that continues.