No, mangoes can never be aam! India's aam is always khaas!
There is simply no calling the Indian mango aam, says celebrity chef Manish Mehrotra, in response to a DailyO piece which incensed mango lovers! Every Indian mango is gorgeous and inescapable!
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Contrary to what I read in DailyO recently, no, mango is not an overrated fruit at all! It’s a very delicious fruit — and India is the only country I have seen that has so many varieties of mango, which are not only good to look at but are flavourful with different kinds having incredibly different flavours.
Calling mango 'the king of fruits' depends on an individual, so I don’t really know whether we should crown it already — But I love mangoes and I personally feel that it is our Indian speciality and, yes, thus, the king of fruits!
The flavour, the aroma and a lot of nostalgia... my earliest memories are about how excited we were over mangoes. My grandparents used to love them and mango season was like a festival season in our household. My uncles and my father used to enthusiastically buy mangoes, carefully choosing each fruit by smelling and tasting it. Then, the fruits were kept in a proper room... there used to be a separate room just for the mangoes to be stored in. We used to wrap each one of the slightly raw ones in newspapers to ripen them. Later, my grandmother and aunts used to decide on the mango that was finally ready to eat, and that used to be served to the entire family.
Mangoes mean a lot of things to me — especially family bonding time.
The Great Indian Festival: Indian households celebrate mango season as a very special time! (Photo: PTI)
Today, every summer, we create dishes using mangoes. It is a very versatile kind of ingredient for Indian cuisines. Most of us only see the ripe, ready-to-eat mango as a fruit but even in its raw form, we use it to make all our chutneys. The sonth chutney is made with raw, dried mangoes and imli while amchur powder that is used in different parts of India, as well as chaat masala, buknu masala, all of these contain mangoes. Many Indian recipes use this fruit, such as aam panna, Goan raw mango curry, prawn paneer with aam ki launji — we just have so many dishes, so many uses! I love both versions of this fruit because the raw mango behaves so differently than the ripe mango — they both are perfect.
I have travelled all over the world. I have seen mangoes from South America. I have seen mangoes from South East Asia. I have seen mangoes from India. I have seen mangoes from India and Pakistan in New York and in London. But the mangoes from India and newer varieties from Pakistan are the best in the world.
For me, Totapuri mangoes are the best because this variety is sweet and sour in flavour and it is firm without being too pulpy. For eating, I prefer Langda — I am from Bihar where they are called Malda aam... there are just so many lovely varieties, such as Alphonso, Dussehri, Kesari — and they are all fantastic.
Indian aam absolutely tastes better too. Mangoes from Mexico and Brazil, they look very nice — but taste-wise, it feels like you are eating potatoes.
You can't get away! Popular Indian street food Gol Gappa also relies on mangoes for its preparation. (Photo: Twitter/Wajiha Rizv)
Personally, I think mango is one of our premiere fruits even though many other fruits can come a close second, such as those we have in abundance and in good quality, such as apples or lychees.
I don’t really know what to say to people who don’t like mangoes — I guess, just like if I don’t like a particular vegetable, I so would not like if someone forced me to eat it. But even without knowing they are eating mangoes in different forms, well, Indians do eat them! Even gol gappas use mangoes in their preparations.
Mangoes are everywhere! And for that, I'm thankful.
(As told to Arpita Kala)