Summer brings me slivers of delight, says Kunal Vijayakar

I cannot speak for other parts of the city, but Dadar, which is close to where I live, and Breach Candy, which is close to where I want to live, transforms when mangoes come into season. It’s only in India that illegal can be iconic, and those iconic fruit hawkers along the wall of Amarsons at Breach Candy, and across the road, who I am sure are completely illegal, turn into a blaze of gold and yellow. In Dadar, all shops — clothes shops, sanitary-ware stores, cycle repair shops, lumber shops; marts whether closed, defunct, leased or owned — are overnight lined with warm hay and stocked with cartons and cases of mangoes.

Every alternate shop-front on the famous SK Bole Marg that leads to Kabutar Khana is resplendent with the king of fruit displayed in rows and piles from ceiling to pavement in all its Ratnagiri glory. Some of the fruit is still green and ripening, some of the mango is already a golden yellow, while some has peaked, with little red and orange tips. But beware, most often, fanatics, fiends and followers of the golden fruit, in their enthusiasm, nescience and philistinism, end up being conned and buying a fruit that comes from Chennai or Mangaluru instead of a bona fide Ratnagiri / Devgad Alphonso.

Here is a quick guide to identifying a legitimate and honourable Ratnagiri Hapus.

* Colour: The Alphonso mango often has tinges of red, and shows gradients of yellows and greens. The pure yellow mango has often been ripened unnaturally.

* Aroma: The sweet natural aroma of a genuine Alphonso mango will fill a room. In fact, you should be able to smell a real Alphonso from a hundred feet away.

* Feel: They should feel soft, with silken skin. Not wrinkled. Often people mistake a wrinkled fruit for a naturally ripe Hapus. That is far from the truth.

* Shape: The Alphonso, also called Hafoos, Hapuz or Aapoos, is oval and all mature Alphonso mangoes develop a slight dimple just below the stem, small enough to hold a drop of water or stop it from sliding down.

Now that you have identified and purchased your Hapus, what are you going to do with it?

While I am a fan of the Paayari, and nothing gives me more pleasure than massaging a small green Paayari mango that has been chilling in the fridge, till the fibres give way to produce a sluice that can be sucked straight from the fruit, the Alphonso is indeed the king. And long vertical slices, skin intact pulled between your incisors, the golden pulp on your tongue, can make me delirious. Only to get completely unhinged when it comes to sucking the whole fleshy seed, till there is no mango left.

Aamras still remains a popular way of consuming the mango, and while I love aamras as it is, in some communities, it is made by cooking the mango pulp with ghee, a bit of milk and a dash of cardamom and nutmeg, to be served slightly warm. This is a fantastic aamras too.

And then of course there is cooking with ripe mango. We are familiar with dishes, pickles, drinks and salads made from raw mango. But here are a few things that are traditionally made with ripe, sweet mango, in areas along the western coast, where the some of the best mangoes grow.

The Goans make a light, tropical ripe-mango curry called Ghotan Sansav. It’s aamras cooked with a tempering of hing, red chillies, mustard seeds and curry leaves with fresh coconut and a bit of jaggery. Perfect with steamed rice and a small piece of fried mackerel on the side.

Like all things Kerala, the Mambazha Pulissery — a traditional sweet-and-sour ripe-mango-and-prawn curry — is divine. Made especially during Lent, when devout Christians abstain from meat, the curry is made with yoghurt, coconut, small onions, chillies, ginger, mustard seeds, fenugreek, turmeric and coconut oil, with a handful of de-veined and shelled small-sized prawns, and eaten with steamed rice.

In Tamil Nadu, a Raw Mango Pachadi is de rigueur for Tamilian New Year. But the same pachadi can be made with sweet, ripe mango. Grind up a paste of rice flour and coconut, tempered with mustard seeds and just a few green chillies. Cook the pulp till it turns smooth and soft; to this add jaggery and stir till jaggery and mango have blended. Cook together, then add coconut and chilli paste. Once the pachadi has thickened, add turmeric and temper with hing and red dry chillies.

In Karnataka, mango rasam is made with jaggery, spices, and a taut green mango on the verge of ripening. In Maharashtra’s Konkan region, Ansa-Fansachi Bhaji is a sweet, sour and spicy dish made with jackfruit, mango and pineapple. I could go on and on. For me, I’m waiting for that first box of mangoes to arrive at my house. I shall proceed to place the ripe ones in the fridge and patiently wait for their temperature to drop to a perfect 9 to 10 degrees, then slice them up and devour them.

First Published:
Apr 12, 2019 20:43 IST

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