One of the reasons I’ve taken so long to post is that I’ve been very busy – meeting friends in Delhi and Pune, learning Modi, stuffing my face.. all the things that have to be done slowly, carefully without distractions. Also, after the 115-degree oven that was Delhi, the 90 degree humidity of Pune is making it feel like a brisk fall day in comparison, so long walks in the city in the late afternoon after my class, when the sky looks heavily pregnant and occasionally delivers, have been fun. I do wish the monsoon would stop being coy and explode, though.
<watch this space for some venting about being waterlogged and washed out, er, a couple of weeks from now..>
Anyway, another reason this post is late is that I’ve been taking photos over the last week of the many ways a mango is eaten in our household (and in western India in general) every year. In late March and April, the kairi or raw mango starts appearing in trees and markets. (btw, all italicized names are in Marathi)
It is one of those tragedies of life that the time to clamber up a mango tree’s branches to pluck kairis is also the time of final exams, and all parents and teachers can think of is that kids will fall down and break their arms and not be able to take their final exams. This happened often on the campus where I grew up and my folks regularly plucked kids from trees along with kairis.
The simplest way to eat a fresh, white hard kairi is to chop it up, rub some salt and red chilli powder on it (tikhat-mithaachi-kairi), and wash down the incredibly spicy-salty-sour thing with some cold water as all your senses tingle. I didn’t have gin & tonic with me as I munched on these a couple of days ago but they were just as delicious:
There’s a cool drink that is often made as a concentrate, called the kairiche panha (the recipe at this link is very good). It tastes good just with some ice and water, but in Delhi this time I discovered that it makes a good gin cocktail too. Unfortunately, I forgot to photograph it.
April, May and June are mango pickle, chutney and preservative season. My mum made five of these over the last week:
At two o’clock is a simple sweet-sour mango pickle. Very oily, not my favourite, but still quite delicious. I much prefer the chutneys at 10 and 12 o’clock. Very simple to make: for every cup of finely grated kairi, take a cup of dry gul (molasses, use brown sugar if you absolutely must), a tsp each of roasted and ground methi (fenugreek) and mohri (mustard) seeds, half a cup of dry coconut powder. For the red one, take a couple tsps of red chilli powder. For the green, take a few green chillis and half a cup of coriander leaves instead. Blend everything together (the texture is best on a hand stone grinder, electric blenders tend to make it too smooth). Heat a tsp of oil in a pan, put a tsp of mustard seeds in it with some hing (asafetida) and when the seeds crackle (wait for these to crackle, otherwise they taste raw and bitter), pour over the chutney. You can avoid this last step, it’s not absolutely necessary. Also, if using Mexican kairis, go easy on the molasses, as these are much less sour than the ones you get here in India.
Others in the family like sweet kairi concoctions more than I do. The lighter one, at 7 o’clock, is saakharamba (sugar-mango), made by steaming the kairi slices and then boiling them in an equivalent amount of sugar, then adding a pinch each of powdered cardamom and maybe saffron. The darker one to its right is gulaamba (molasses-mango) and is made the same way, but with dry gul instead. They’re like desi jams, and having some wrapped in a chapati was a common evening snack in childhood.
Lest you think that nobody allows the kairi to ripen in these parts into the amba (generic for ripe mango) here is the haapus, one of my favourite mangoes, and about which there has been much hoopla this year in the States (its called the Alphonso in English). I fear that it’s going to be a disappointment though, because all the preservatives and high prices and hype are going to ruin its enjoyment. In mid-May, though, it reigns supreme over all others here and I was lucky to catch a good late batch in early June:
A good fresh haapus from Devgad is almost completely fibre-free with very firm, thick and sweet orange flesh and has a lovely fragrance. It is to be eaten sliced, not sucked, but I also like eating the skin. Sometimes the flesh is made into a pulp called
ambrosia of the gods aamras:
This is one of my serious summer weaknesses, something that instantly puts me in a good mood. It is eaten with chapatis, puris, or simply with a dollop of cream or ghee on top, sometimes with cardamom sprinkled. My mum likes to add just a pinch of salt as a counterpoint. I like it neat.
Well, there you are, some mango moods. There are many many other incredible mango delights from different parts of the subcontinent and around the world, which some food bloggers, many of them desis, put together recently. This fruit totally makes the summer worth it. My mum is most tickled that her concoctions are being photographed and posted online.
Incidentally, this post is meant especially for NSG and A, both of whom I remembered with every bite and click this past week.