It is mango season in India. Usually by now the entire country, from its southern most to northern most regions, is flush with a variety of mangoes. While naturally sweet and great to enjoy in a variety of desserts or simply sliced when ripe, mangoes also make for refreshing savory and tangy snacks. Read on for a quick and easy tangy masala mango recipe which if you live in the US Southwest will remind you of similarly spicy mango snacks from Mexico.
From north to south, mango is king!
The vastly different climatic zones across India translate into scaffolded growing seasons such that just as mangoes in southern states like Kerala and Andhra Pradesh are starting to ripen, northern regions like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab are in the throes of the Kaeri/Kairi crop. And no, it isn’t another fruit or vegetable. Kaeri in Hindi and Ambi in Punjabi is used to describe raw or unripe mangoes that are still green on the outside with firm, usually white flesh.
From chutney and dal to street side snacks
While in most Punjabi households, mine included, kaeri/ambi is typically used for making a variety of lip smacking chutneys – hari chutney and raw mango chutney among them – and a summer staple, aam panna, there are many other ways of incorporating mango into a meal such as the ripe mango curry Sakshi shared and many more which we are yet to explore.
From India to Mexico, savory to spiced, everything is game!
So while I’d always known of mangoes in chutneys, aam panna, slushies, and my grandma’s several different achars – some with grated kaeri, others with the entire fruit cubed along with its soft pit – it was only once my parents moved to Hyderabad that I saw raw mango slices slathered with spices being sold at street side stands. Sliced lengthwise, their glistening flesh topped with a spice mix always looked enticing except that I had never been able to enjoy sour foods. So alas, that is one street food I skipped.
Jumping forward many years, and living in the US Southwest I’ve found similarities between Mexican and Indian ways of consuming mango. For instance, both cuisine have some version of a dry fruit snack. India has aam pappad, a fruit leather, whereas Mexico has spicy dried mango slices which can now be found easily at grocery stores like Trader Joes (and one of my favorites!).
Spice mixes that elevate simple foods
The similarities don’t end there. Mexican food uses spices creatively and in mixes same as Indian cooking. Go to any kitchen in India and you are bound to find garam masala or chat masala or pav bhaji masala or amchoor – dried mango powder. So when I was introduced to the Tajin Classico Seasoning, I was instantly drawn to experimenting with it. From using it on salads and to spice up burgers, I’ve transitioned to using it on fruits.
This isn’t far from or unlike the raw mango snacks found in Andhra Pradesh or the grated mango mix from Bengal except that instead of kaeri/ambi a firm fleshed, ripe Tommy Atkin mango makes for a good replacement and one my tastebuds actually enjoy. Its sweet and juicy flesh gets a tangy lift with the Tajin seasoning similar to Mango con Chile y Limon (mango with chili and lime), a common street food from Mexico.
Masala Mango: Sliced or cubed, take your pick
NYT Cooking has a similar recipe for Mango with Chile-Lime Salt that requires pantry staples in addition to ripe mangoes. The only difference being that Yewande Komolafe recommends cubing and making something akin to a mango chaat instead of topping slices with lime, salt and chili. Interestingly, in contrast to Andhra Pradesh and Bengal, ripe Totapari mangoes are enjoyed in the southern Indian state of Kerala in a similar manner. Totapari, literally a parrot’s beak, has distinctively green skin with yellow flesh that is seasoned with salt and chili.
So whether you are leaning toward something that could be eaten with a fork like a mango-avocado fruit salad, or one where you might make a mess but also get really engrossed in the process of enjoying the snack, I suggest you pick a few spices from your pantry and start testing them on mangoes this season. I certainly am doing this and below are two ways I am making masala mangoes this summer.
Masala Mango two ways
No matter which spice mix I choose here’s what I do:
- Halve and then slice the mango lengthwise.
- Top with spices and lime juice.
- Pick up and eat!
Masala Mango with Tajin
The quickest and easiest way to recreate a Mexican street snack. Fair warning though, I have not been to Mexico so this in my estimation is approximately how Mango con Chile y Limon would taste. Try it!
Masala Mango with a specialty spice mix from Patiala
Really, there are no dearth of options for this tangy mango snack. The specialty spice mix from Patiala was sent by my father-in-law who is a true chatora – someone who loves sour foods, and he adds a pinch or two of this masala to most things he eats! While I don’t think I am going to do that anytime soon, I sure am enjoying the pungency of rock salt with bhuna jeera, black pepper and saunth (dried ginger powder) in this proprietary blend with perhaps a few other spices, maybe even amchur, I am yet to identify. Despair not! The same effect can be replicated with a chaat masala whether store bought or mixed at home.
And that’s a wrap on this dispatch from Tucson. I hope you will enjoy summer’s fruits from mangoes to watermelon with spices.
- 1 Knife
- 1 or 2 Tommy Atkin Mango ripe but firm to touch
- Tajin/Chaat Masala to taste
- Juice of one lime
- Wash and clean a mango.
- Then slice it lengthwise – 4 to 6 per mango.
- Top with spice mix and lime juice.