In this part of the world, summers can be punishing, but what Chennai’s palate knows very well is that it also ushers in a bouquet of tastes. The city begins by saying hello to the ‘ Vadu Maanga’ (tender mangoes).
As the mercury soars, the tangy taste of these mangoes pickled in rock salt, chilli powder and mustard is the first among the many flavours of the season. This preparation has many names – vadu maanga in Tamil, kadugu maanga in Malayalam and letha mamidhi kaya pachidi in Telugu.
Places including Mylapore, Ranganathan Street in T. Nagar, and vegetable and fruit chain stores in the city have been stocking vadu maanga that come in different varieties and prices. Last week, a kilo was priced at Rs. 250. But it has now come down to Rs. 140 – 150 a kilo.Mouth-watering preparation
“The best ones come with red tinged stalks and are the costliest. The round ones are better than the long ones,” explains S. Jayamani, a home-maker from Triplicane, who has years of experience in making vadu maanga.
She still has a few left from last year’s batch. These mangoes pickled in brine, chilly powder, and sometimes a generous dose of mustard powder, could last for years on end, except that the mouth-watering preparation is so tasty that the family quickly runs out of stock.
Every home will have a recipe handed down from generation to generation. “My mother used to make the best maa vadu (yet another name). It used to be fun chomping on the tender mangoes along with curd rice. We wouldn’t even wait till it had soaked up the salt,” said Hema Narayanaswamy, a resident of Thiruvanmiyur.
The most common recipe is to wash and wipe dry baby mangoes; dab them with castor oil; add rock salt (grind them if you want), powdered mustard and chillies and put it all in a container. Every day, for a week, keep stirring this heady mix several times.Kadugu Maanga
Kadugu maanga is made with a slight variation, says Visalakshi Balakrishnan, a resident of Virugambakkam. “The kanni maanga (tender mango in Malayalam) is washed, and wiped dry and then, rock salt is added.
After a week, de-seeded chillies are powdered and mustard powder is added. Mangoes in plain brine solution are consumed along with rice kanji (gruel). Some people also add vinegar to the solution so that it keeps for a long while,” she explained.
Telugus have a different recipe. They cut the baby mangoes into pieces, mix it with oil, salt and chilli powder and rather than store it for a longer period, consume it within a day or two.
The recipes are dime a dozen, but when you bite into a tender mango, and let that tenderness hit you along with the tanginess, it’s a taste you keep going back to. That sensation can only be eclipsed when you bite into a luscious ripe Banganapalli later in the season .