Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mirthful Mangoes

Come summer! bring the sweetness of Mangoes to the country. Mangoes, the first of the Mukkani (The three prime or sweetest fruits, the others being Jackfruit and Bananas), forms a major part in the Indian delicacy, esp Tamil Nadu. Being a seasonal fruit, both ripe and unripe forms take a major place in everyday cuisine during the season. Apart from that Mangoes have sayings that are both favourable and against it. It has been a main fruit since the good old days where there was a split in Lord Shiva's family. That is one good story that has been passed on for generations and the main reason for Lord Murugan establishing Palani as one of his Arupadai Veedu (Six houses).

The story goes like this. Saint Naradha brought a special mango for Lord Shiva and both Lord Ganesha and Lord Muruga contested for the mango. And Lord Shiva announced, whoever circles the world first would receive the mango. Lord Murugan shooted first with mount the peacock to go around the world and win the fruit, but Lord Ganesha with his hefty body and a small mount the Moonjoor Rat, thought for a moment and went around Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi considering them to be the world. Lord Shiva pleased with the wisdom of Lord Ganesha, gave him the mango. And when Lord Murugan returned, he felt deceived because he was the one to encircle the world first, and he gave away all the wealth and position he had and stood as an Aandi (person who has nothing to his name) on top of a mountain called Palani, a place near Coimbatore. This story is told in order to emphasise the importance that one's parents must be revered and worshipped in the first place. But a mango getting a place in this story is its taste and the importance being given in the cuisine.

The ripe mangoes form an industry themselves and yields a major revenue for the country through exports too. Senthuram, Neelam, Malgova, Salem Gundu, Aapoos, Roomania, Imambus, Banganapalli, Alphonso, Gudhadhath, Manjal Naari are some major varieties that are sold both inside and exported out of the country. And India is a largest producer of mangoes in the world.

The ripe form, Maambalam, does not need a reason to be the prime fruit, but the unripe mangoes, Maangai, are also a major part South Indian cuisine. It forms part of the cuisine in various forms

Vadu Maangaai - Small mangoes that haven't grown yet, the ones that are a few days of forming into a fruit, rather tender mangoes. The preparation is almost similar to the spicy pickles, but they are just soaked in spicy water that is a mixture of chilly powder, mustard and fenugreek powder, gingelly oil, turmeric powder etc. This forms a good combination for all recipies prepared out of curd - plain curd, More kulambu etc. It really makes the mouth water for many people when they hear this combination, because the taste is irrestible. There are many varieties in Vadu Maangai like the Thirumoorthi variety, Palakkad variety, Go Maangai variety, but the Thirumoorthi mountain variety (Thirumoorthi malai vadu maangaai) is the most aromatic and tasty. The others are equally tasty but Thirumoorthi mountain variety is more popular. Even Kaalamega Pulavar has
mentioned about the Vadu Maangai, his song goes like this.

"Thinga Nudhalaar Thirumanam Polae Keeri
Pongu Kadal Uppai Pugatiyae Engalida

Aachaalukku Oorugaai Aaagamal Yaarukku

Kaaichaai Vadu Maangaai"

meaning, the ladies with the forehead, that resembles the moon after 3 or 4 days after the new moon, would split the vadu maangai and put the salt that is obtained from the uproarious seas, and then prepare the pickle for the elderly
mother. But the trees that Kaalamegam saw had vadu maangais still left in the
branches. So the poet asks, for whom did the mangoes grow in the tree and whom
are they waiting for instead of being a vadu maangai pickle for the mother of
their place

Mango Pickles - The next form of cuisine is the most common form - pickles. This does not need much explanation as mango pickles are popularly available. Avakkai - The most popular form of mango pickles, where raw mangoes are cut into small pieces being soaked in spicy masala.

Maangai Thokku - This form is more or less a pickle, but in this, mostly the fleshy part of the mango is used, boiled and cooked with spices and salt added. And this is great combination for all food items.

Maangai Vathal - Mangoes are dried out in the sun after soaking in salt water. And used in various food items whenever required. This form will be best for use, for many months, even years.

The other preparations include Maangai Pachadi, Fish - both dried and fresh - Kulambu, More Kulambu, Aviyal and many other mouth watering recipies that are seasonal as the mangoes are. Though recipes like More Kulambu, Aviyal are prepared without mangoes too, but the sour taste of the Maangaai, added more flavour that is irrestible to many mouths in the country.

Apart from it, Maangaai, is used as a cure for cold. This might sound counter-intuitive, because most people say that eating maangaai (unripe form) makes people catch cold, but there are people who use it for a cure too. The preparation is that the mango is cut and cooked in plain water. After being cooked, the cooked maangaai along with the water being used to cook and it is said to relieve people of cold.

Well, enough of this mouth watering cuisine! We have aberrated too much from what we were about to look, the sayings that are both favourable and unfavourable to the mango. First, lets look into the favourable saying. It goes like this

"Maatha Ootadha Soru, Maangaai Ootum"

meaning, The mango will feed the food that one's mother does not feed. This had two meanings in it. The first one being the quantity of food intake, esp by children. The taste of the various forms of mango cuisine makes people, esp children to take in more food that helps them in their growth. The saying is because, the children or people who don't listen to their mother's request to eat a little more food would eat just for the taste of Maangaai. The second meaning being, the richness minerals and vitamins that the mango delivers is not attained by the normal food that one's mother provides.

Maatha - Mother
Ootadha - negative Ootum meaning Feeding

Soru - Food

Maangaai - unripe mango

Ootum - feeding

How true about the aforesaid saying. Now what is it about the saying that is unfavourable. The saying goes like this

"Naa Ularum, Pall Koosum, Maangai Unbaare Maru"

meaning, the tongue will start to blabber, the teeth will feel more sensitised. So, the eaters of mango please avoid it.
This might be counter-intuitive about the mango, but it is indeed true. The sourness of the mango makes the tongue stiff that is will not be able to utter some words that requires turning and curling of the tongue. Also the sourness will make the teeth feel more sensitised and to most people it is not tolerable, however they cannot resist the taste and will not stop eating.

Though both the sayings are true indeed, Mangoes are a primary part of our daily delicacy during the mango season. As rightly classified by our ancestors as the first of the Mukkani (Maa, Palaa, Vaazhai - Mango, Jackfruit, Bananas), the mango is truly a great fruit to be relished when it is becomes available. Don't miss the mangoes this season!!!

More to come, until then...


Ravi said...

Prabhu, I loooove mangoes and your post has only strengthened that fantasy for mangoes. I really cherish your articles Prabhu, neengal thodarndhu ippadi ezhudhanum. Thanks!

R.Prabhu said...

Mikka Nandri Ravi! Thanks for the support. Hope you enjoy the mangoes this season too!!!

Ravi said...

Prabhu, hopefully I should be in India by then before the Mango season finishes :)

R.Prabhu said...

Sure Ravi, also there is an expectation that there will be aplenty of mangoes this season as it seems to be a good yield this year. Lets hope you come to India during the season so that you taste the mangoes this year! :)