Mango and memories!

Fulsome flavours Tom som mamuang

Fulsome flavours Tom som mamuang   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Imperial’s Spice Route celebrates the tang and taste of the king of fruits with Chef Veena Arora’s carefully crafted Summer Collection menu

Mangoes and I go back a long way. My grandfather had a mango orchard in his village in Western Uttar Pradesh, and I spent my summers rather fruitfully – literally and otherwise – among the trees there. I recall an incident in New Delhi, too, when we were among a group of families living together in a bungalow in Lutyens’ Delhi, which was – and is – lined with mango trees. I chucked a stone aimed at a ripe mango dangling from a branch of a fruit-laden tree and then ran for my life when I saw the maali approaching. But the stone took a strange arc and instead of hitting the branch, hit the top of my head as I ran.

But despite such misadventures, my love for mangoes stays as strong as ever. I love the chausa, which sadly comes for a very short while. Last week, I also had some nice ratauls, which my friend Sohail bhai brought from Rataul, a village just about 30 km from Delhi.

I have had another nice mango session this summer – and that was at The Imperial. Chef Veena Arora, Chef De Cuisine, The Spice Route, had rolled out her Summer Collection menu, and I had a taste of some of her delicious specialities. The menu spans dishes from Kerala, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Thailand, and each dish includes either fresh or raw mangoes. The maambalam okra thoren, for instance, is a Kerala dish of wok-fried okra with slivers of raw mango, while the yum mamuang kung krob is a spicy raw mango salad with dry shrimp and battered fried prawns from Thailand.

I had a Thai dish – tom som mamuang – which was a wonderfully light chicken and raw mango soup flavoured with lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. For the soup, the chef had boiled a cup of water and then added a stock cube to it, along with lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. When it started to boil, she added some fish sauce and crushed red chillies to it. Cherry tomatoes, onion, chicken and raw mango went into the broth, which was then seasoned and garnished with fresh cilantro. It was heavenly, and rejuvenated me on that hot and humid day in a trice.

Nice and tart

The amba curry – a Sri Lankan dish of raw mango and assorted vegetables – was nice and tart. But what I loved was the ga xao hot dieu – a Vietnamese style stir fried chicken dish with ripe mango and cashew nuts. The chicken had soaked in the flavours of the mango, and the crunchy cashew nuts added to the texture. The Jasmine rice with ripe mangoes cooked in coconut milk was wonderfully fragrant and was almost like a dish by itself.

Amba Curry

Amba Curry   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Delightful mix

Chef Arora, who grew up in Thailand, likes to add fruit to her dishes – a delightful mix that is a veritable part of Thai cuisine. “That is the reason the complete menu revolves around mango, the favourite summer fruit,” she says.

The menu has been carefully crafted by the chef, who has also created the dishes. Among them is pla e saan – crispy fillets of sole served with a spicy palm sugar and shredded raw mango sauce and flavoured with mint.

The festival is on till July 31, for both lunch and dinner. A meal for two costs ₹8500 plus taxes. There are several desserts on the menu, too, but I am being a good boy and didn’t venture there. But the food that I did eat was, in one word, superb.

It didn’t just tickle my palate but also opened up a trove of old memories. And it even reminded me of a dent on the top of my head!

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 1:14:00 AM |

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