It’s time for mango mania – Food Feature!

Come summer and I become a mango maniac. The musky mango aroma always reminds me of my younger days in our old Delhi house in Civil Lines, where we would climb the mango trees in our front lawn. There was always a tough fight between us siblings for the larger loot.It's time for mango mania - Food Feature

Ritually, we would be summoned by my grandmother for a lecture about our safety and admonished about climbing trees, which obviously would fall on deaf ears. Later, the one with the largest loot would boast about his natural skills while eating his share of mangoes, licking every drop from his palms.

Hmmmm! If only I could relive those moments.

India is a mango haven, with a large variety of mangoes available in the market : Safeda, Langda, Chaunsa, Dusehari and last but not the least, my favourite king go mangoes – the Alphonso.

The mango is native to the Indian subcontinent, from where it spread all over the world. In several cultures, mango has religious implications and even the leaves of mango trees are ritually used as floral decorations at weddings and religious ceremonies.

Mangoes are widely used in Indian cuisine. Sour, unripe mangoes are used in chutneys, pickles or side dishes, salsas, desserts and drinks. A cooling summer drink called Panna comes from mangoes. Not to forget the mango jelly my wife specializes in and Mangai Paruppu, a popular dish in Tamil Nadu, where mangoes are cooked with red grams and green chilies and served with steamed rice and clarified raw mangoes eaten fresh.

In my Punjab , ripe mangoes are blended with yoghurt to make lassi. I can live on mango lassi if I had my way. Alas, if only my wife would stop fretting about my weight!

Ripe mangoes are also used to make curries. Amras is a popular pulp/thick juice made of mangoes with sugar or milk – just add crushed ice to Amras and you would be momentarily transported to heaven.

The pulp from ripe mangoes is also used to make a jam called Mangada. Mangoes are used in preserves such as Moramba, Amchur (dried and powdered unripe mango) and pickles, including a spicy mustard-oil pickle. Ripe mangoes are often cut into thin layers, desiccated, folded, and then cut. Unripe mango may be eaten with bagging (popular in the Philippines), fish sauce or with a dash of salt. Dried strips of sweet, ripe mango (sometimes combined with seedless tamarind to make Mangorind) are also popular.

Mangoes are used to make juices, cocktails, smoothies, milk shakes and the like.

In Central America, mangoes are either eaten green mixed with salt, vinegar, black pepper and hot sauce, or ripe in various forms. Toasted and ground pumpkin seed (called Pepita) with lime and salt are the normal accompaniments when eating green mangoes. Some people also add soy sauce or chili sauce.

Sweet glutinous rice is flavored with coconut, then served with sliced mango as a dessert. In other parts of Southeast Asia, mangoes are pickled with fish sauce and rice vinegar. This season, my favorite is mango with condensed milk poured over crushed ice and I call it Mangolicious.

Usually , most of us do not mix anything sweet with savory such as pomegranate in rice or pineapple fried rice or jaggery with chickpeas. Having said that, there are a few exceptions such as Mango Salsa, Nutrella on bread or pineapple savory chutney with hot Punjabi parantha.

I was in Rio last December where, over a meal in a fancy restro bar , I was served Mango Salsa with corn Nachos. What intrigued me was how the sweet mangoes could co-exist well with ingredients like bell peppers, onions, jalapenos and peanuts. One dip in the salsa changed my opinion and I slurped up three to four dishes with bottomless Mango Margarittas glasses.
The crunch of the bell peppers, mild tasting onions and hot jalapeno went hand-in-hand with the sweet mangoes so well! Left with no choice I bribed the chef for the recipe.

On returning home, I tired it in my own kitchen and served in parties. It was a huge hit. Mango Salsa also goes well as a filling in Taco Shells, Quesadillas, Burritos and even with Arroz Verde. Just try it!
I won’t keep you for long , so here goes the recipe:

Rio Mango Salsa

1 large ripe, firm mango
1 medium red bell pepper, diced into small pieces
1 tbsp Jalapeno
1 small red onion, diced finely
2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tsp mint leaves

Dice the mango into small pieces and put in a bowl. Add jalepenos.

Add the rest of the ingredients.

Toss well and cover with a plastic wrap. Set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This helps to set in the flavor.

Serve as a dip with nachos. It even goes well with naan, parantha or potato chips.

– Monish Gujral (IANS)

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