Wednesday, June 20, 2007
On Mangoes and love for the Banganapalli
The English word Mango derives its name from the Portugese word Manga, which in-turn is derived from the Thamizh word Maangai. I am an unabashed Mango fan. Probably in the 60th percentile among mango fans. During my travels this May to various parts of India, I 'accidentally' happened to eat a lot of mangoes that were locally popular. I hereby declare that Banganapalli is the king of all mangoes. Not Alphonso as these businessmen and exporters would have the foreigners believe.
Langra is a mango from West Bengal is another popular variety that unfortunately I never tasted. Although I spent significant amount of time in U.P, I missed the most popular mango of that region. I am not sure if Kesar is a mutant of Langra, if it is so then I am sorry to say Kesar sucks. First of all a mango needs to be really yellow. Not sort of yellow. Remember that Indian mangoes gave rise to the color pigment Indian yellow ( The pigment was taken from the urine of cows, which ate these mangoes). A mango that is not as yellow as Banganapalli is not a mango. Secondly, it has got to be sweet and juicy. Kesar is needs to be at least 20X more seet to come within scratching range of the Banganapalli.
The Maharashtrians gave the world Alphonso. And quickly termed it King of Mangoes. A non-yellow, non-juicy, almost salty-tasting mango is a king? No way. I agree it comes a close second to Banganapalli. A court minister, a jester? Maybe. But a king? Never. (Apple) Rumani, an apple-like mango, is another thin-skinned mango that struts itself as if it is the hottest thing in the world after Shreya. It is not. Mainly because its not juicy enough. Furthermore, Apple-like is un-mango like. Moving down south - songs have been penned on the Salem Mango. Thamizh Naadu gave Mulgoa, which is the probably the worst Mango I have ever eaten. Salem is better off doing something else instead of Mango cultivation. The shape, the taste and the juicyness is the most un-mango-like that I have ever seen. The only thing TN can claim glory to is providing or majorly participating in the concept of 'Maavadu'. Pickles made out of budding mangoes.
While on the subject of Mangoes - Raw unripe (really) unripe mangoes also have to be given their due credit. Especially if it is in a form similar to the ones sold in Marina beach. You take a unripe mango cut it along the plane,which would result in many half-ovals. Cut the flesh part of the mango that gives them a teeth-shaped structure. And then add spice to it. This is the ultimate form that unripe mangoes can present itself for human consumption. Some people take home-made mangoes, a step further. Cut the mangoes in very Small pieces, add kothamalli, chillies and other spices to them (sambar/rasam podi). Voila! you have a pickle-substitute. Ruchi and Priya pickles provide a manga-thokku, which is also hard to match in terms of Mango pickles.
Andhra is known for Mango-based pickles. It is unfortunate that the pickles turned out to be a distraction from their main contribution to the world. The sole purpose for which Andhra Pradesh was created. Andhra Pradesh makes, what the Vedas really call the Mangoes - food for gods. Banganapalli. You can get it from boulder size fruits to mountain size fruits. Unimaginably yellow. Juice flows like water flows in Niagara. Banganapalli is the Anna Nicole-Smith of mangoes. Think of every voluptuous lady from Ursula Andress, Cameron Diaz, Anna Kournikova, to J'lo - all rolled into one fruit. The delicate shape, the voluptuousness and juicyness that Banganapalli generates is incomparable. You tear out the skin with your teeth and juices start flowing down. Can something be more sweet? No. Eating a Banganapalli is a thundering orgasm in itself. A drop of its juice and your blood sugar level soars up to 400. Now that is a mango. May and June should be renamed Banganapalli-1 and Banganapalli-2. When June ends and the rain gods pour themselves on the earth - the love fest with Banganapalli ends. Until then it is the duty of every citizen to buy it - even if 1 gigantic fruit costs 15 Rs and you know that the mango-vendor lady in G.N.Chetty road is ripping you off. Because there is a mama from Mandavali standing next to you, who is willing to pay that, put all the mangoes into his plastic cover and drive back in his Kinetic Honda.
P.S: Coming from a family, which has a maniacal obsession to mangoes and conducts annual tournaments on - who eats the maximum mangoes, who finishes of with the whitest shell etc - It is natural for me to think of mangoes 2x more than a pregnant woman with masakkai.