Talk about childhood memories and there are certain foods that immediately come to mind. A perfect case in point is Aam Papad, or mango leather as known in the gourmet world these days. The sweet and spicy relish is available in myriad versions all across India, each unique in shape, flavour and texture, giving us more reasons to go all out and indulge! Some may like the sweet, jam-like Aam Papad, while others may prefer the tangy and spicy, almost tamarind-like Aam Papad to satisfy those cravings. There are many spiced versions available too, some even with digestion boosting properties.
Renowned Chef Sabyasachi Gorai says, "Being a Bong, I have always been a fan of Aam Papad. Back home in Kolkata we call it Aam Sotto. As a kid, I would look forward to my summer school holidays every year to go back to my grandma's house to eat Aam Papad, which was seasonal. Drawing from that childhood memory, today I make Coconut and Aam Papad Ladoos at Lavaash and Mineority."
The process of making Aam Papad is not really difficult, but it is time consuming and perhaps this is the reason why most people prefer to skip the task at home and go and get hold of commercial Aam Papad, which are equally as relishing. On a recent trip to Amritsar, my husband and I came across several shops that were selling unbelievable versions of Aam Papad - sheets, balls, strips, droplets, blocks, jam, and what not! Go to Rajasthan and Maharashtra, and you will find an equally diverse range; whereas in Bengal and Assam they seem to be more inclined towards the sweet flavour rather than including Ayurvedic spices. In the South Indian states too Aam Papad is a popular treat, with the Andhra version - Mamidi Tandra - being sought after.
"On my Grand trunk culinary journey (as part of our GT Road food festival) to Amritsar last year, I got the chance to explore different types of Aam Papad at Lawrence Road. Sweet, khatta-meetha, peda and rolls are few examples of the kind of papad styles they make. Aam Papads are served with a sprinkle of chat masala, black salt, cumin, pepper, chilli powder and a pinch of lemon juice that make them lip-smacking good. All these papads are very different from each other, varying in taste depending on the variety of mangoes used for their preparation," says Chef Ashwani Kumar Singh of The Leela Ambience Convention Hotel, Delhi.
So how is this fruit leather made? Fresh mango pulp is blended and cooked on a low flame along with sugar and spices. This is then spread thinly onto a sheet or tray, and left to dry completely to remove moisture, which could take about 3-4 days. Once done, you can role it up and relish it, or continue building more layers on top to make a block.
Well, if you don't really have all that patience, here's a super quick recipe for you to follow at home - Aam Papad.
Since the final flavour of the fruit papad will depend on the type of mango you use, so make sure you select wisely. For more sweetness pick Alphonso and Banganapalli. Other varieties you can use include Langra, Safeda and Dussehri.