If it’s summer, then it’s time for pickles. Everyone has their favourite type of pickle and while I enjoy a good lemon or mixed pickle, any mango pickle is by far my favourite. If given a choice, I would pick mango over any other pickle. The Mango Chunda is also one I enjoy, but it is S’ favourite pickle. Every trip from India, whether it is us or my parents, had to involve at least a few bottles of the chunda.
This pickle is from the western state of Gujarat and does not involve any cooking. The pickle is made from shredded mangoes and is sweet and sour, with a hint of spice and is made by keeping all the ingredients in the sun for up to a month until the sun cooks the pickle. But because we had not been to India for a while, one day, I found the instant version of the pickle and decided to make it. It was an instant hit, so I decided to post it here, so I can reference it later.
Instant Mango Chunda
2 large green mangoes
2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
½ tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp roasted cumin powder
Rinse, dry and peel the mangoes. Grate them and keep them aside.
Measure the grated mangoes and put them in a large pan
In the same pan, for 2 cups of grated mangoes, add 2 cups of sugar
Add the salt and turmeric powder and mix well.
Switch on the gas and let the sugar dissolve. Once the sugar dissolves, reduce the flame to low and let the sugar syrup cook to single string consistency. This should usually take about 6-8 minutes and you will know when it reaches one string consistency when you take a drop of the syrup and your index finger and thumb and move the fingers apart and you can see a string forming.
At this point, and this is very important, switch off the flame and immediately transfer the mixture to another bowl. Don’t forget to do this step. If you don’t transfer it immediately, the chunda will become hard. I did this the first time I made this recipe and since then have learnt my lesson.
Let the mango sugar mixture cool down completely.
Once it is cooled down, add the chilli powder and cumin powder and mix thoroughly.
Store in a dry glass or ceramic container and it will remain fresh for up to a year. Though if your family is like mine, it won’t last that long.
Notes: I used country sugar instead of white sugar, hence the dark colour. You can also substitute brown sugar or jaggery. Also I used the same quantity of sugar to mangoes, but if your mangoes are especially sour, you may need to increase the sugar to compensate for the sourness. You can also increase the chilli powder according to taste.
When it is the month of May, it is mango season in Mumbai. And not just any ordinary mango, it’s the time for the king of mangoes – the Alphonso Mango, lovingly called Hapus in Maharashtra. The months of April to early June, just before the first rains hit the state, the aroma of these mangoes are everywhere in the city, you just can’t escape the fruit.
Scientifically known as Mangifera indica, mangoes have been grown in India for thousands of years and produces around 40% of the world’s production of the fruit. Over 1,000 varieties grow in India, each one celebrated and defended in its region, from the bright orange Kesar of Gujarat to the small green Langra of Uttar Pradesh. But the Alphonso mango is special and unlike any found in the country. The fruit is named after the Portuguese general and military expert, Afonso de Albuquerque who helped establish Portuguese colonies in India. Grating on mango trees to produce varieties like the Alphonso was also introduced by the Portuguese. The Alphonso mango is also one of the most expensive varieties of mango, and is grown mainly in western India, particulary in the Ratnagiri district of the Konkan region in Maharashtra. The fruit is highly prized for its aroma and fragrance, taste and the beautiful colour of sunset it takes on when fully ripe. It is heavily traded both domestically as well as internationally and many cartons of the fruit are packed to be sent to the Middle East, Europe, North America and South and Southeast Asia.
Of the thousands of cultivars of mango in India, there are several different varieties of Alphonso. The best and most expensive are grown on the small Natwarlal plantation in Ratnagiri, and are hand-harvested. It is this variety that’s most widely exported. The fruit was shipped to London for the Queen’s coronation in 1953 from Mumbai’s legendary Crawford Market, renowned for its Alphonso stalls in season. A few years back, the famous mangoes from the Konkan region in Maharashtra were given Geographical Indication or GI tags which means this tag specifies the geographical location, which could be a town, city, region or even a country, a product is created. This means that when you buy a mango which is GI tagged, you are sure you are buying an Alphonso mango or Hapus!
A seasonal fruit, the Alphonso mango is available from around mid-April through the end of June, though once it starts raining, the balance produce starts flooding the market and prices also drop. The fruit is best eaten when the weather is hot and dry, in the peak summer months. The Alphonso has a beautiful mango shape and each fruit a quite large, weighing between 150 to 300 grams per fruit. The skin of a fully ripe Alphonso mango turns a bright golden-yellow with a tinge of red which spreads across the top of the fruit. The flesh of the fruit is a beautiful dark saffron colour and is rich, creamy, smooth and buttery with a delicate non-fibrous and juicy pulp.
Mangoes are a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals containing over 20 different vitamins and minerals. 1 serving of mango which is roughly ¾ of a cup provides you with the following amounts of your daily requirements – 50% of vitamin C, 8% vitamin A, 8% of vitamin B6, 15% of folate, 15% of copper as well as 7% of your daily fibre requirements.
Growing up, at home in Mumbai, everybody with the exception of me was a huge mango fan. While I can eat one fruit per day or so, my parents, grandparents and sister can polish off a few fruits each. I was the exception to the rule pretty much everywhere because most people I knew were mango or rather hapus aficiandos. I preferred the raw mango which is this tart and sometimes sour fruit which is so yummy with a lashing of salt and red chilli powder. During my childhood, we used to get boxes of the fruit and other than eating the fruit itself, my mother would puree the pulp and this puree would be used to flavour milkshakes and also my father and sister would dunk their chapatis and puris in this puree. So during the summer months, each night before bed, my mother would make a few glasses of mango milkshake for those who desired it (not me!).
My paternal grandparents moved to Bangalore when I was quite young and each year, we would travel to Bangalore for our summer holidays. We would mostly travel in the last few days of April or the first few days of May, depending on when my school would officially end. In my school, students had to go back to school to collect their year-end reports and so we would only travel out of Mumbai after that day, which would usually be the day after the results. A week or so before the trip, which would be by train, my mother would get in touch with her regular mango-walla to order a big box of mangoes for my grandmother who loved Hapus and could not readily find it in Bangalore those days. This is more than 30-35 years back, so the Bangalore of those days is very, very different from the Bengaluru of today. The mango-walla uncle would pack the mangoes which would be around four to five dozens in a big wooden box and layer the mangoes in beds of straw. He would have chosen unripe mangoes in varying stages of ripeness so that all 50-60 mangoes ripen at different times and we don’t have a glut of ripe mangoes to finish off at the same time. We would then take this box, along with a mango pickle made of baby unripe mangoes which was my mother’s signature pickle and which my grandfather loved along with our luggage and travel the roughly 1,150 km to Bangalore. In Bangalore, some of the Alphonso mangoes would be distributed among friends and the rest eaten as it is or made into puree, milkshakes or even used in sweets. I remember one year, my sister and I planted an Alphonso mango seed in the hope that it will become a mango tree. But we planted it too close to the boundary wall between our home and that of our neighbour and so the next year when we went looking for the tree we were sure would have come up by then, we were told they had to pluck it out and throw it. I remember both of us being so disappointed at this news.
Another memory I have about mangoes is a trip to Chennai during the summers. We were at an aunt’s house and they had a fully grown mango tree. The tree was full of unripe mangoes and the women in the house had decided they get the mangoes plucked and make mango pickle out of it. But we children plus my uncle had a different idea. One afternoon, while the women were taking a nap and we were playing board games, the uncle managed to pluck quite a few of the mangoes and after sneaking into the kitchen to get plates, a knife, some salt and red chilli powder, we had a raw mango party! Of course the expected outcome happened – all of us, including my uncle got roundly scolded for eating mangoes that was destined for a pickle, but we didn’t regret it one bit.
Mangoes are considered heaty and the rule in my house used to be a cup of milk after every mango eating session. I hate drinking milk, so sometimes, I do wonder if my indifference to mangoes was because of this rule. The next generation, aka GG & BB also love mangoes, BB more than GG I think because his go-to drink at an Indian restaurant is the Mango Lassi. So all said and done, I still love the Alphonso mango and during this season, even in Singapore, I try to purchase a carton of this precious fruit so that the children (and S and me) can take part in a ritual that goes back to my childhood.
A thokku is a pickle which is cooked down to a paste. In normal pickles, you don’t cook them (or barely cook them) allowing the vegetables (or fruits) to absorb the spices from the spice paste that coats them. In a thokku, you cook it down until there is no moisture left in the vegetable (or fruit) and this can also be made with herbs like coriander (or cilantro as it is called in North America) or curry leaves.
A thokku can be eaten not only with rice or flatbreads, but you can eat it as a stuffing in a sandwich. The raw mango thokku is an all-time favourite pickle and I have been known for eating it as it is, that’s how much I love it!
Last year in December, when my mum was with me, one day when I was wondering if I should make my instant mango pickle with the raw mangoes that S brought home, she asked me if I wanted to make this raw mango thokku. Me being me, I instantly said yes and learnt it from her. Since then I’ve made it at least once a month, fine-tuning my recipe. I am now confident of this recipe enough to share with everyone.
This is an easy recipe, just a little tedious. For around 4 largish mangoes, it usually takes me an hour from start to finish. If you are making more, perhaps for the whole year, then yes it can even take the whole day!
Raw Mango Thokku
4 large raw mangoes
4-6 tbsps gingelly oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
4 tbsp red chilli powder (approximately)
½ cup jaggery
½ tsp fenugreek seed powder
Salt to taste
Wash and dry the mangoes thoroughly.
Peel the skin and chop the flesh into small pieces, the smaller the better. Discard the seed.
In a large pan, heat the gingelly oil and when it starts smoking, add in the mustard seeds. When the seeds pop, pour in the chopped mangoes and stir well to cover all the pieces with the oil.
Stir well and cover and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Then add turmeric powder and salt and stir well and cook for 2 minutes.
Now add the chilli powder and continue to cook. You can do a taste test at this point to check for seasoning and the level of chillies in the thokku. When you feel it is slightly spicier than you can handle, that’s what you are looking for.
Add the jaggery (optional, you can omit this completely or even add some brown sugar) and let it cook till the oil starts leaving the sides of the pan. Add more oil if your thokku starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.
Just when it is ready, add the fenugreek powder and remove from the gas.
When the thokku is cool, remove it to a jar and enjoy!
I have found that the best way to cut the mangoes is to peel them with the peeler (after you have removed the skin).
Peel the flesh until you come to the seed, and then chop the remaining flesh finely. This way, the flesh breaks down fast and you get a smooth paste like thokku.
In the photo below, (I made this version about a month back), I have chopped the flesh and you can still see the slightly grainy cubes which have not melted into a paste.
Last year when I was in India, my mum made this and I really fell in love with the recipe. I was actually eating it like a snack, it was that tasty. I saw how she made it and came back and replicated a couple of times at home. I made this recently and thought to share it with everyone.
It’s a very simple and easy recipe with all ingredients (except the mangoes) which can be found in your kitchen. It also hardly takes any time to make, with only the cutting the mangoes the slightly tedious task.
This pickle stays good for a couple of weeks in the fridge, but it’s best to eat it soon. It also does not have any curing time, unlike traditional pickles.
Instant Raw Mango Pickle
1 green, raw mango, chopped into tiny pieces
1 tsp salt
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp sugar (optional)
2 tbsps gingelly oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
Wash and dry the mango and chop it into very small pieces
In a large pan, add the chopped mangoes, salt, sugar (if using), red chilli powder, turmeric powder and 1/4 tsp asafoetida and mix well.
In a smaller pan, heat the gingelly oil and when the oil starts smoking, put the mustard seeds and let them pop. Then add the asafoetida and pour the hot oil into the mango mixture. Mix thoroughly and store in a glass jar in the fridge.
After the function, we had some extra mangoes. These were not the Alphonso mangoes which are super sweet, and so I was not very keen on making a milkshake out of them. We tried eating them, but since they were not very sweet, nobody was really interested in that. So instead of wasting them, I thought I’ll quickly whip up a salsa with the mangoes. The mangoes were sweet enough for the salsa, and the combination of the different vegetables was superb! Even S and BB, whom I thought would say spicy, loved it!
2 mangoes, chopped into small bite-sized pieces
2 onions, chopped finely into bite-sized pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped finely into bite-sized pieces
2 green chillies, sliced finely
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp cumin seed powder
2 tsp lime/lemon juice
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves to garnish
Chop the mangoes, onions and red bell pepper into bite sized pieces and keep in a large bowl
Add the ginger and chopped chillies as well as the cumin seed powder, lemon juice and toss well
Add salt to taste, toss well and garnish with coriander leaves
Chill for a few hours if you want for a better infusion of taste