It has been said that India has only two seasons: Monsoon season and Mango season. While the monsoon replenishes Indian soil, mangoes are food for the soul. Did you know that India holds 40% share of the world mango production?
Having to forgo Indian mangoes was definitely a downside of emigration to the US. I don’t count Mexican mangoes: sorry Bobby Flay, I’m sure your mango salsas are nicely fibrous and vaguely sweet but these mangoes are unfit for consumption unless cooked. I brightened momentarily when President GW visited India, fell in love with the most regal of mangoes, the Alphonso, and granted special import permit for this variety, only to be foiled by the competitive Indian shopper who snaps up crates of mangoes at the going rate for gold. I recall a friend attempting to
smuggle import a crate of mangoes from Toronto. At being stopped at the border and asked to throw them away, she refused indignantly. Instead, the family pulled over for an impromptu mango feast with the Customs officers joining in with gusto.
My green mango rice was inspired by a photograph shared by a Malaysian friend taken in his mother-in-law’s garden in Terengganu. It is adapted from Chandra Padmanabhan’s Dakshin cook book of vegetarian, South Indian cuisine.
- Cook one cup of long grained rice (Jasmine or Basmati). Preferably do this ahead. For me, that meant calling home from the gas station to ask my husband to get the rice started. Let cool by spreading out on a platter.
- Green mangoes: You will need three small ones or two medium ones or one large… (you get the idea).
- Peel and grate the mangoes. Mine turned out to be slightly ripe, oops. This was likely because they were sitting around for a week.
- Grind together: One cup of grated mango, 1.5 tsp black mustard seeds, 0.5 cup fresh grated coconut, 2-4 dry red chilies, and 0.5 tsp of asafoetida powder. You can find grated coconut in the freezer section of your local Indian grocery store. I’ve described the uniqueness of asafoetida (hing) before. It’s the Brahmin equivalent of garlic. If you don’t care to be an orthodox Brahmin or can’t locate this gum exudate (or both), try substituting a clove of garlic.
- You will need to add a few tablespoons of water to get the blender going.
- You should end up with a tangy, raw mango chutney with a mustardy kick to it.
- Tempering: A standard step in southern Indian cooking, this step adds another layer of flavor and crunchy texture to the rice. To a tablespoon of hot oil, add 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds and 1 tablespoon of split white Bengal gram (urad dal). When the mustard seeds change to pale gray and pop explosively (step back, or find a handy cover), add a handful of fresh curry leaves (kari patta; I save mine in the freezer so they are not quite as freshly green as I would like, but good enough). If you are going to be using unroasted peanuts, add them now. Otherwise, wait until later.
- Add the remainder of the grated mango (0.5-1 cup, use it all up!).
- Add the ground mango chutney and continue cooking on low heat for about 5 minutes until it is no longer raw. Season with salt and turmeric. Let cool.
- Assemble the mango rice: Mix the chutney gently into the rice, taking care not to mush the delicate grains in the process. I find my fingers work best for this (I washed my hands, promise). Be patient, working the mixture together so that no pockets of plain rice remain. Use a sprinkling of sesame or other oil if the mix looks dry. Add roasted peanuts, additional coconut if you feel extravagant (I did) and a sprinkling of coarse sugar to balance the tartness of the mango.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and a sprinkling of fresh coconut. The rice tastes even better after the flavors have had time to blend: delicately tangy and slightly sweet, sharply astringent with mustard, balanced out by creamy richness of coconut, all topped with crunchy peanuts and little pops of roasted mustard seeds. Enjoy!
- We ate it with mango pickle on the side!