Raw Mango Chutney
An eternal delight of Indian summers is the raw mango. Its piquant, sweet-sour taste makes it the perfect addition to an array of dishes, turning them mouthwateringly delicious. Foods with an astringent, sour flavour are particularly appetising in hot weather. Our forebears — the nameless generations of women (and a few men) who experimented with food and matched this foodstuff to that — understood this. So they have left us with a rich culinary tradition of dishes made with raw mango.
In Bengal the raw mango chutney is a summer staple. It’s one of my great favourites too. I like it the way my mother makes it — a light, cooling concoction, a perfect blend of sweet and sour with just that hint of sharpness of ginger and mustard seeds.
It’s a simple dish and cooks in a jiffy. The devil is in the details, or as we say in Bengali — andaaj (the best translation of that word is “judgement”). Each raw mango has a different level of sourness so you have to keep tasting the brew as you cook it and add the sugar accordingly.
I cooked some today — a panful of golden, tangy, utterly delicious and refreshing aamer chutney. Traditionally had after a meal, it's not just finger-lickin' good, it also clears your palate. And leaves you craving for more.
Kancha Aamer Chutney (Raw Mango Chutney)
Two medium raw mangoes
2 dried red chilles
1 tsp aniseed
1 and a half tsp mustard seeds
1 inch piece of ginger cut into fine juliennes
Sugar (start with half a cup, then add as needed)
3 tbsp mustard oil
Salt to taste
Peel and slice the mangoes lengthwise. Soak them in water to which a little turmeric has been added. About 5-10 minutes.
Heat the oil in a wok. Lightly fry the mango slices (about 2-3 minutes) and keep aside.
In the remaining hot oil, drop the red chillies. Give them a stir or two. When they turn dark add the aniseeds and fry for 30 seconds. Then add the mustard seeds. As the seeds begin to pop, add the chopped ginger. Stir continuously on low heat till the ginger turns golden.
It’s vital that the ginger is fried exactly right. Left too raw, it will not give the right flavour. Fried too much, the chutney will take on a bitter taste. Its fine balance of flavours will be destroyed.
As soon as the ginger is done add some water. The amount of water to be added depends on how syrupy you like your chutney. But don’t pour an awful lot at one go because after you add the sugar, the water level will go up anyway.
Bring it to a boil. Then add the mangoes. Add a pinch of salt. Lower the heat and let it simmer.
When the mangoes are nearly done (check with a fork) then add the sugar. From here on you have to keep tasting the chutney. You might have to add more sugar — it depends on the sourness quotient of the mangoes and how sweet you want your chutney to be. Once you are satisfied with the taste, you can boil away the liquid some more if you want the chutney to be slightly viscous. Or leave it clear and syrupy — the way I like it.
Pour the chutney into a bowl and let it cool. Chill, remove the dried red chillies, and serve.