One of the finest of ripe mango curries is the Konkani ambya umman / humman. Since time immemorial, huge mango trees have been growing all over the plains, foothills and plateaus of India. In summer, these trees produce luscious mangoes in great abundance, shedding the ripe fruit every day on the ground. The birds, squirrels and bats feed to their hearts content but they are able to polish off only a portion of the bounty, leaving the rest for humans to enjoy.
These wild mangoes (called goyante ambo in Konkani) unlike the hybrid commercial cultivars, are generally smaller in size, have fibrous pulp and pack a punch in terms of flavor. It is these wild mangoes that the Konkani people love to turn into delicious, lip smacking ambya umman.
Some of the smallest varieties are just a trifle bigger than a lime, have thinner skin, are lemon yellow inside and have indefatigable flavor. Alas! Man’s greed for valuable timber has resulted in the loss of a great many of these centuries old patriarchs among mango trees.
We have four mid-sized mango trees producing popay ambo (called papaya manga or ko manga in Malayalam) on our land. They are medium sized, thick-skinned, fragrant, sweet and tangy mangoes with plenty of fiber in their flesh. This time, I have used these marvellous country mangoes to make lip-smacking ripe mango curry. These country mangoes are quite healthy and are among the best to make mango squash, mango jam, mango candy, mango pickles, whole mangoes in brine, as well as scrumptious mango curries. It is only when the country mangoes are unavailable that I use the larger, fiberless hybrid mangoes to make ambya umman. The sight of country / wild mango trees always awaken in me, nostalgic childhood memories of groups of children pelting stones to down ripe mangoes, and sucking on them with the rich juice running down our chins and fingers.
This sweet mango curry is served as a dessert in most Konkani feasts during the mango season. Even little children can be seen joyously tucking away 5 or 6 mangoes at a sitting. I am sure you too will love ambya umman.
|Prep Time||30 minutes|
|Cook Time||30 minutes|
- 3 kg ripe mangoes (wild mangoes or country mangoes are best, see notes)
- 500 gm jaggery (unrefined cane sugar)
- 50 gm sugar
- 25 gm salt
- 50 gm rice flour (or corn starch)
- 2 sprigs curry leaves
- 5 gm mustard seeds
- 3 gm fenugreek seeds
- 10 gm split black gram lentils (urud dal)
- 7 gm dry hot red chilies
- 30 ml cooking oil
- 1600 ml water
- Wash the mangoes nicely. If any sticky grime is present, immerse in a solution of 20 ml. of vinegar in a litre of water for 5 minutes. Scrub and wash. Rinse in clear water.
- Pull off the mango peel with your fingers and set the peel aside (see notes) in a bowl. Put the peeled mangoes into a pan or any other cooking vessel.
- Pour 500 ml of water over the mango peel in the bowl and squeeze well with your fingers to release the flavor from the peel (see notes). Pour the peel juice (after discarding the peel) over the mangoes and set the vessel on high heat.
- Keep aside 200 ml of the water and pour in the rest.
- As soon as it comes to a boil, lower the heat and cook till the mangoes become soft.
- Meanwhile, put the jaggery, the sugar and the salt into a pan. Pour in 100 ml. of water and set on low heat. Stir until the jaggery is fully melted.
- The mangoes must have cooked by now. Sieve the melted jaggery and tip it in. Stir well and turn up the heat. Let the curry boil for 4 minutes.
- Mix the rice powder (or the cornstarch) vigorously with 100 ml. of water and tip it in. Stir for a minute or two for the curry to thicken and then switch off the heat.
- Break each red chili into 2 or 3 pieces and set aside. Pull the curry leaves off their sprigs and keep aside.
- Set a small pan on low heat. Pour in the cooking oil and throw in the mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds are about to finish crackling, tip in the fenugreek seeds.
- As soon as the fenugreek seeds start bursting, tip in the urud dal. Stir till it turns a light brown in colour.
- Put in the broken red chilies and the curry leaves. Stir twice or thrice and tip over the entire contents of the pan into the mango curry. Stir and cover with a lid.
- Your ultra-delicious ambya umman is ready to serve. Serve hot or cold either by itself or as welcome dessert to a meal. Bite in to the juicy flesh of the mangoes. Dip the fibrous mango stone in the curry sauce and suck it in together with the flesh sticking to the fibres. Repeat again and again. You are in heaven! Do try this recipe for sure!
- If wild mangoes are not available, simply use any other ripe mango. Larger unpeeled mangoes can be cut to pieces and used. Tangy mangoes are great for this curry.
- You can adjust the quantity of jaggery and sugar to suit your taste.
- Rice powder is used as the thickener in the traditional recipes. However, you will find that corn starch (or corn flour as it is called in India) does just as well or even better.
- The peel juice enhances the flavor of the ambya umman, but the process can be discarded if using hybrid mangoes. These commerically cultivated mangoes can simply be cut up along with the peel and used.
- Take care not to serve tiny mangoes to smaller kids to avoid the danger of suffocating on the stones.
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