Mango mania hits India as summer blazes its long scorching trail. The local road-side vendors and markets are stocked with the first harvest of raw green mangoes. Living in Hyderabad, I am fortunate that I get a glimpse of the magnificent mangoes on trees here and there in private residential courtyards. The Mangifera Indica trees are resplendent with luscious green gems dotting their lush foliage. It is like our very own Indian summer-christmas tree decorated with festive ornaments.
While the aromatic fleshy pinkish yellow sweet mango is the king of fruits in India, the crisp & sour raw green mango holds its own forte among kitchen recipes, with a name to reckon –Kairi in Hindi and Mammidkai in Telugu. A darling of expecting mothers, a favorite in Indian kitchens and the frothy cloud of childhood memories.
It is said that motherhood completes a woman. I believe it is women who can pickle a mango that are an all-rounder and bow to them. This is also one time of the year that I feel completely left out of conversations as my personal use of mangoes is limited to the ripe juicy fruit that will hit the markets later in the month or maybe a couple of random uses of the raw mango. It amazes me how women discuss the varieties & uses of this delectable fruit like a pro. Whether at home or work, raw mango as a topic occupies a place of pride like the annual budget presented by the central government.
The wednesday fruit & vegetable market was abuzz with women bargaining with the vendors for raw green mangoes. Their discussions in simple Telugu about the humble Mammidkai sounded mouth-wateringly spicy and tangy. Pachchadi, Paanakam, Mammidkai Pappu, Avakkaya were some commonly heard names of Andhra delicacies that sent me scampering to pick out the most luscious looking pieces.
The keen eyed women noticed me, an outsider among the stalwarts. I wanted to clarify that I understood every word & expression. I didn’t bother. The mangoes had all my attention. A couple of elderly aunties took it for granted that I needed help in picking the right pieces. They did not hesitate to remove the one’s chosen by me from my basket and replace them with better choices. You can’t mess with raw mangoes, I guess. I didn’t complaining since I got the right price for them too. With their help, of course. I overheard a deviation in discussion from mangoes to me for a few minutes. I imagine that for them it was a “her mother didn’t teach her anything” moment 🙂
Walking home proud with my purchase, I mentally scouted for websites that might have easy raw mango recipes. Some neighbors noticed the mangoes in my basket; more talk of pickles, chutney and what not. I never knew I had good acting skills for they never guessed my limited knowledge on the subject 😉
My husband and daughter were mighty amused to see the raw green mangoes in my basket. 😀 They made no efforts to hide their curious expressions that clearly defined “what are you gonna do with it, you don’t know how to make Avakkaya – the fiery red andhra mango pickle nor have you ever made an edible Mammidkai Pachchadi – raw mango chutney?” I gave them my hurt expression, trying hard to look confident and declared my intentions of churning out a gourmet dish from the precious green mounds; now they laughed out aloud and I stuck my tongue out 🙂
Thinking of some good recipe I washed them well under running water and wiped them dry with a kitchen napkin. Looking at it for a few seconds, I just picked up a knife and chopped one shiny mango into thin slices, sprinkled some black salt and red chilly powder. As I put one slice into my mouth, the sour salt n spicy tangs burst through my taste buds. The family couldn’t help but greedily join a sheepish-lookin-me in the Mango Manic Delight. Much laughter and banter ensued around the Kairi.
My daughter’s favorite is the Andhra Mango Pickle and the Aam Panna or Paanakam, an Indian drink known for its sweet sour & salty cooling properties in summer. I settle for Aam Panna (Yes, because I am a pro at it 🙂 ).
The summer is long so I have enough time to dish out other tempting delicacies. For now, it is indulgence in the simple & pure magic of cut mango pieces with salt and chilies 🙂