Yellow Drupe

Trujetter Team

, Food

If there is one fruit that has fascinated many, and cajoled chefs to go local at least in its season, it is the all-loved mango. From inspiring dishes to earning a cult following, we look at how the king of fruit has reigned supreme in the kitchens this summer.

Summer is all about mangoes. So much so that our culinary ledgers are full of dishes that can be made of mangoes – from chutneys to jams to beverages and even dishes.

This perhaps is the reason why there are as many mango dishes available as there are varieties. Take for instance Ram Kela. This rotund variety of mango is a favourite across India for all things preserve, especially pickle. The reason for this, says Chef Sharad Dewan (Regional Director, Food Production, The Park Kolkata) “is the tough skin and less moisture. Two characteristics that make it perfect for pickling as it doesn’t need to be dehydrated and hence retains much of the natural
flavour well.”

In fact, it was this quality of the mango that appealed to Chef Manish Mehrotra (Corporate Chef, Indian Accent) when he decided to use it to crank up the flavours on his signature dish, the Meetha Achaar Spare Ribs. Says Chef Shantanu Mehrotra (Executive Chef, Indian Accent), “the reason we chose that variety is because it holds the robust flavours of a pickle masala well, while adding the sour-sweet note to the dish.”

For Chef Vikas Seth (Culinary Director, Embassy Group), the choice was of course the Neelam, a type of mango known for its floral aroma. “The reason,” says Chef Seth, “for choosing the raw Neelam over the round Malgoa is the balance of the tartness and the brilliant shape and colour.”

But appearance and aromas are not the only things that determine which duper is at play. A lot, says Chef Sabyasachi Gorai (Chefpreneur, Lavaash By Saby), “depends on the mangoes versatility as well, and of course longevity.”

Chef Gorai, who has had a long association with mangoes, in fact, prefers the Palmer, Kesar or Mallika over alphonso when he creates dishes with mangoes. The idea, says the culinary wizard, “while using a mango in a dish is three prong: one to highlight the flavours of a mango; two, its versatility as to how it adds to a dish; and three, to do so while not tampering with the natural texture of the mangoes.” This is one of the reasons that chefs have to work with a variety of mangoes, since one variety, says Chef Dewan, “may not fit the bill.”

An excellent example of this is the famous Alphonso. While the variety works brilliantly for an ice cream, says Chef Mehrotra, “a good choice for something like an aamraas will be the Mughal favourite, Hamam since its both fragrant and comes with the delicious taste.”

But with change in cities, the preferences changes. Like for Chef Dewan, the variety that works is Himsagar, which is local, sweeter and comes with a better shelf life. In case of Chef Seth, who uses mangoes in his guacamole, it will be the mix of both the juicy, oval shaped Raspuri and the happily tart Malgoa, which is chopped into bite size cubes to add both texture and taste to the dish.

Chefs going local with mangoes, explains Chef Gorai, “aspires not only from the need for freshness and longer shelf life, but also the taste. A local variety will hold much appeal to the local palate than one that has covered 500 food miles.”

That perhaps explains why Chef Sarfaraz Ahmed (Outlet Chef, Trèsind Mumbai), prefers to work with raw Ratnagiri to create his Kolkata Beetroot Chop. Says Chef Ahmed, “The sourness of the Ratnagiri raw mango is efficiently balanced with green chilies and sugar to tone down its excessive acidity. Beetroot has an earthy flavour that imparts a natural sweetness. To cut down the sweetness, we needed an ingredient that provides acidity and balance the sweetness.” Another example is the Alleppy lobster curry, where instead of tamarind, the raw version of Totapuri is used to infuse the dish with that right amount of tartness and texture.”

Choosing mangoes, says Chef Mir Zafar Ali (Executive Chef, The Leela Bengaluru), “is often determined by what you want to extract from them. Primarily, most mangoes have two distinct flavour profiles – the sour and sweet. And often for a chef, it is the last note that defines which mango works and
which doesn’t.”

The all-favourite southern variety Moovandam, for instance, says Chef Ali, “works beautifully  to give a dish its refreshing punch. When it comes to making pachadi (a kind of chutney), I prefer the Gaddamar, which is the Ram Kela equivalent in down south. Same is the case of Salem Gundu, which makes for an interesting dessert option both as a table fruit as well as in the form of a light coconut milk-based drink.”

Of course, there are a few exceptions to this versatile rule of mango. For some dishes like Kerala’s Mambazha Kalan, says Chef Ajay Anand (Culinary Director, Pullman Aerocity), the best mangoes to work with is Nandan, which inherently has this sweeter nuance even when it is not ripened. And those are the flavour notes that work best for this Sadhya dish.”

However, for most chefs, it is the versatility of the summer duper that makes it a fascinating pick. Like for Prateek Sadhu (head Chef, Masque), mangoes are all about a foreplay of three interesting local varieties: Alphonso, Kesar and Ratnagiri. “Our Kashmiri katlam bread is currently served with pickled mango and jackfruit, alongside a jamun ketchup; a hazelnut flour tart filled with hazelnut cream is topped with pickled cucumber and raw mango, “ says Chef Sandhu, whose next experiment on mangoes is fermentation. The plan, says the chef, “is to leave the mangoes for 6 to 8 weeks at a steady temperature of about 65 degrees, causing them to blacken in the process.”

But Chef Sandhu isn’t the only one pushing the envelope on mangoes versatility, Chef Abhishek Gupta (Executive Sous Chef, The Leela Ambience Gurugram) has created a summer menu for his experiential table, Epic, with ‘faces of mangoes’ as the theme.

Explains Chef Gupta, “ The idea was to explore as many facet of mangoes. So with Biorythm, I have played with the different forms of mango starting with homemade mango leather cigars, stuffed with Safeda cubes, raw alphonso salsa, fresh mint, mango Jel, mango Salt and wafer, served on a Himalayan Salt Block. It is an ode to the simple treat of aampapad and chaat masala with its flavours deconstructed. Another treat is the Mango & Turmeric. Here I have used pickled turmeric with Safeda, which is moderately sweet and weds beautifully with Oilve water, fermented capers, burnt chilli, honey and gherkin. All this is combined with a semi-ripened mango salt.”

For Chef Heena Punwani (Pastry Chef, The Bombay Canteen), the experiment with local mangoes is inclined more towards keeping it as natural as possible. An excellent example of her experiment is the Kairi Meringue Tart. “Fashioned after a lemon tart, the shortcrust base is first lined with bruleed kairi slices sprinkled with chilli powder and topped with a kairi custard with the barest hint of black salt. The tart is served with torched meringue and kairi jujubes rolled in sugar,” says Chef Punwani, who experimented with at least a dozen raw and semi-ripened mangoes to get the childhood favourite right. Eventually, says the pastry chef, “I had to choose a mix of mangoes to create the dessert, which turned out to be a summer bestseller.” Another of her brilliant creation is the Aamras Puri, which is an ode to the varieties of mangoes, and usually takes on the seasonal best. So, she adds, “we begin with Dussehri, then Kesar, then Chausa and then Langra towards the end of the season. Of course, with this time, we are trying to try the lesser known variety of Himayat and Imam Pasanda.”

Much like Chef Gorai who would be debuting the sweeter, juicer, fleshier Palmer this season as part of their ‘fresh taste initiative’. 

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