If there’s one thing that can distract you from this alarmingly hot season, it’s the arrival of the king of all fruits, the golden and juicy mango. For me, waiting for the mango season is as much a sacrament as the weather is not.
In Mumbai, people usually start arguing in February about how much the first mango is expected to cost. And those who value their status in society as much as the fruit itself manages to get a few dozen before anyone else can. In mid-March and April, dozens of Alphonso mangoes arrive in Mumbai from Ratnagiri and Deogad. That is the best mango for my money. And you know that the mango season has really started when all Gujju thali joints in Kalbadevi add Aamras Pooric on their menu and local ice cream makers announce that their fresh mango ice cream is ready. Restaurants and patisseries are also starting their mango extravaganza. Fresh mangoes with cream, mango pie, mango mousse, mango panna cotta, fresh mango pie, mango cupcakes, mango cheesecakes, mango Brulee, mango Mille Feuille and more mango.
But mango is more than making desserts and juices. Mango has traditionally been an integral part of Indian cuisine, especially along the Konkan coast. We know dishes, pickles, drinks and salads made from raw mango, and while aamras still a popular way of consuming the mango, along the coast, where mangoes grow in abundance, cooking with ripe mango is quite commonplace and traditional.
Let’s start with Ratnagiri and Goa. The Goans make a light, tropical ripe mango curry called Ghotache Sansav. It is Aamras cooked with a temper of hing, red peppers, mustard seeds and curry leaves with fresh coconut and a little jaggery. Strange as it may sound, it’s actually quite tasty and eaten with Red Goan rice and a small piece of fried mackerel on the side. Also among the Saraswats in Goa, and in the Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg region, where jackfruit grows in every garden, a sweet coconut curry with a fascinating combination of jackfruit, pineapple and mango heralds the summer season. Ansa-Phansachi Bhaaji is a curry made with the combination of these three fruits and freshly grated coconut. Tempered with curry leaves, mustard seeds and honey, and seasoned with coriander, pepper and dry red chillies, a whole ripe mango is often cooked in the Ansa-Phansachi Bhaaji, with the seed intact. With rice, it’s a little sweet, a little sour, and a little spicy. As life should be.
In Kerala, a traditional sweet and sour ripe mango and shrimp curry, Mambazha Pulissery, is specially made during Lent, when devout Christians abstain from meat. The curry is made with yogurt, coconut, small onions, chilies, ginger, mustard seeds, fenugreek, turmeric and coconut oil, with a handful of small shrimps and eaten with steamed rice. There is also the more famous Chemmeen Manga Curry, again a shrimp mango curry with raw mangoes cooked in creamy coconut sauce. The raw mangoes give a slightly spicy flavor to the dish, which is absolutely wonderful.
Raw mango rice is a specialty in most parts of South India, where the mango grows naturally. Mangai Sadam is a simple rice dish cooked with grated raw mango and tempered with simple spices and mixed with white rice.
In Karnataka, Mango Rasam is made with jaggery, spices and an almost edible green mango. And using small, ripe mangoes is a Mangalorean curry called Ambe Upkari. It is a spicy and sweet curry made with small, fully ripe mangoes, jaggery and green chilies. It’s great with hot rice and ghee, and finished with a classic South Indian tadka. If I’m not mistaken, this curry is also called Kukku da Kajipu, not the Punjabi kind of “kukku da” but kukku, which means mango in Tulu.
In Tamil Nadu, a Raw Mango Pachadi is a must for the Tamil New Year. But the same Mango Pachadi can also be made with sweet ripe mango. Grind a paste of rice flour and coconut, tempered with mustard seeds and just a few green chilies. When the pasta is ready, cook the mango pulp until smooth and soft, add cane sugar and stir until the straw and mango become homogeneous. When the mango and cane sugar are cooked together, add the coconut and chili paste. As soon as the pachadi thickens, add turmeric and temper the mixture with hing and red dry peppers.
In the Andhra tradition, raw mango is added to daal to make Mamidikaya Pappu. It is a mango daal made with raw unripe mangoes, pigeon peas lentils, tempered and spices. And finally, in Bengal, where the kasundi (mustard sauce) is a staple, Aam Kasundi is a seasonal variety. It’s tart and mustard-like and pairs perfectly with fried fish and chops or whatever. I like it in a chicken sandwich with mayo. It is very bhalo†
Kunal Vijayakar is a food writer from Mumbai. He tweets @kunalvijayakar and can be followed on Instagram @kunalvijayakar. His YouTube channel is called Khaane Mein Kya Hai. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of this publication.
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