Cooking with Mangoes
Mangoes in any dish create a nice tropical twist to a meal, especially when combined with coconut and spices!
My love for mangoes is more of an adult thing. I was perhaps the only child in the world who was force fed mango ice-cream every night throughout my pre-teen years! I hated milk, and this was my lovely, but persistent, mother’s way of getting calcium into me. I hated the smell of mangoes, and am still not a fan of ice-cream! Moving to India as adult, however, changed my views on this succulent, fleshy bounty of nature.
If there is any thing that Indians are more obsessed about than the sport cricket, it is the mango. You would think a mango is a mango, but that is not so! The national fruit of India (really!) is made up of over 1500 different cultivars or bred varieties, with about 1000 commercial varieties! That’s a lot of mango. And every region has its own favourites, with varying culinary uses depending on the ripeness of the fruit.
While Delhi-walas swear by their Langdas, Chausas and Dasheharis, Mumbai-ites will eat nothing but the King – the great Alphonso. Given half the world’s mangoes are grown in India, I guess we Indians have a right to be mango-obsessed. Having grown up in the Philippines, brought up on the super-sweet Carabao mango (mostly in its dairy format), I fortunately have never got caught up in the hand-to-hand combat over Indian mangoes.
Being a no-waste-in-the-kitchen advocate, however, I do feel tremendous sorrow when people cut mangoes into three parts, eat the meaty slices and throw out the poor loaded, yet difficult to eat, seed, or gitak as we call it in the North of India. So when the family rejects them, I save the lowly gitaks and restore their full-fruity glory by making Kerala’s sweet mango curry, Mambazha Pulliserry (mambazha is sweet ripe mango, and pulliserry is a dish cooked with yoghurt.) Three to four leftover seeds and a whole mango are enough for a perfect dinner dish with rice.
In Kerala, the small, super sweet Chandrakaran mango is used, both for its intense, luscious fragrance as well as it juiciness. But honestly, when you don’t have choices, any ripe mango will do.
This dish is super easy. I’ve written the recipe with whole mangoes, but if you are psychotic like me, and save up your seeds, you can adapt the recipe to a bunch of seeds and one mango.
- 2 large or 4 small mangoes ripe mangoes, about 600g before cutting
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric (powder)
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder, or to taste
- 1 cup water, just enough to cover mangoes in saucepan or pot
- 1 whole green chili (completely optional)
- ½ cup fresh plain yoghurt
- ½ cup grated fresh coconut
- ½ teaspoon cumin seed
- ½ teaspoon mustard seed,
- 8-10 fresh or dried curry leaves
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- Cut mangoes in small dice. Don’t throw away the seeds.
- Combine mangoes, mango seeds, salt, turmeric and red chili powder in a 6” pot saucepan. Make sure you just use enough water to cover the mangoes, or you will end up with a very water curry!
- Bring to a boil then lower heat and cook for 15 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to mash mango pieces as they cook.
4. Grind cumin and coconut in a mixie or grinder for about ½ minute until well blended. This combination of coconut and cumin is one of my favourites and often found in Kerala cooking.
5. Add mixture to mango, and cook for another 2 minutes.
6. Beat or whisk yogurt until smooth. Add to mango, and cook curry for another 5 minutes on low heat. Do not bring to a boil.
7. Heat oil in a wok or deep frying pan on medium heat.
8. Add mustard and curry leaves and stir.
9. When the mustard starts to sizzle and pop, add curry leaves and whole dried red chilies, and stir about 2 minutes. You can add asafetida as well at this point, but I have left it out of the ingredients list for two reasons – first, it is not common in a non-Indian pantry, and the second part of its name- fetid -relates to it sulfurous aroma, which not everyone loves!
10.Pour the tempered oil with the leaves and chilies into your curry pot.
Serve with rice.
Critical Ingredients: The mangoes, of course, are critical, quite obviously, although this same curry is made with ripe plantains and even cucumbers. You can simplify the recipe further by dropping the dried red chilies and the green chili and still get an adequate flavor. The coconut can be reduced to ¼ cup. If you use dried (not sweetened) or desiccated coconut, soak it in milk for ½ hour in advance. Yogurt, coconut and cumin seeds are critical. If you leave out the curry leaves you won’t get a full authentic flavor, but you will still have a nice sweet, sour, spicy curry. Coconut oil gives a distinctive South Indian flavor as do the curry leaves, but you can substitute the coconut oil with any mild-flavored oil for tempering. Worst case, even if you leave out the tempering, the curry will still taste good!
Go ahead and dig into your delicious mango curry!