Bengali recipes: The mango is the national fruit of India, and rightly so because over 280 varieties of it are grown in the country, and thirty-odd are widely available and really popular in season. In this, mangoes are celebrated and revered and waited for by connoisseurs of the fruit who would not touch certain varieties before and after a particular time of the year and would rather choose to wait for the next season to arrive.
The Mangoes of Bengal in History
In 1722, Fateh Chand, whose grandfather hailed from Nagaur in Marwar, was given the name by the Nawab of Bengal, "Jagat Seth", not just for his vast wealth but also for the management of it, since he was responsible for the Murshidabad Mint in the Nawab's capital. Credits were regularly given not just to the Nawab, but also to the East India Company, and the name stuck. The other thing that stuck was the love of this family for the mango, and their dedication to growing multiple varieties of it. Acres of land were cultivated to grow the most incredible array of mangoes, over 400 varieties of it, including hard-to-find varieties like Bimli, Bombay, Bara Sahi, Kohitur, Kalabati, Sarenga, Khirsa Pati, Champa, Molamzam, Nawab Pasand, Begum Pasand, Mohan Bhog, Jahanara, and the like. Mangoes have always been a huge part of India and different breeds were named after significant rulers, deities, as well as historical events, like the Jahangir after its Mughal namesake, Mohan Bhog because it was offered to Lord Krishna, or the Chausa, that celebrated Sher Shah Suri's victory over Humayun at Chausa, Bihar.
The Mangoes of Bengal at Present
Today, mango varieties have depleted rapidly, many varieties making way for popular ones like Him Sagar or Lyangra, but it still is a huge part of the food scene of India during the period between April and August. There is still a huge demand for the fruit, especially for Him Sagar and Lyangra. Restaurants and hotels are seen incorporating them consistently via special menus and festivals, and some brands have made it a part of their responsibility to feature lesser-known mangoes in their menu. ITC Sonar had been a key player in Kolkata in hosting a mango festival each year in association with the Sheherwali people of Murshidabad, who still maintains orchards that consists of many varieties of lesser-known mangoes, and currently includes several varieties in their new Feel-Good Menu, which uses local produce consistently to uphold their ethos of "responsible luxury".
In the city, different varieties of mangoes are featured during different parts of the year, and the city-based juice chain, The Yellow Straw, uses different varieties of mangoes in different parts of the year to make their shakes. "We have the rich Lyangra mango shake of course, but it comes quite late because they don't come to the market before June. So, we begin our mango season with the Lalmoni mangoes, followed by Gulaab Khaas, Himsagar, and then Lyangra. The Alphonso mango has a huge demand here, but since it comes all the way from Ratnagiri, we have an Alphonso mango shake separately on the menu. During summers, mangoes are our bestsellers, and we like giving people what's absolutely fresh and in-season because that tastes the best," said Vikram Khinwasara, co-owner of The Yellow Straw.
Making the Aam Doi
In Bengal, ripe mangoes are used in many avatars, from being put in salads to getting added to desserts, they are virtually everywhere during this season. They are also incorporated in making aam doi, a simple yogurt and mango concoction that is either steamed or microwaved and then left to set in the fridge, the first method results in a set yogurt-like concoction, while the second method yielding a slightly runny but really satisfying, fresh mango concoction.
How To Make Aam Doi: Mango Yogurt | Aam Doi: Mango Yogurt Recipe:
- 1 cup condensed milk
- Half cup ripe mango puree
- 1.5 cups plain yogurt
Hang the curd in a strainer or plain cheesecloth till most of the whey is drained from it. Add to it the mango puree and condensed milk and mix very well (preferably in a food processor) till smooth. Pour in a heat-proof bowl, and then either steam it, covered, for 40 minutes over simmering water, or microwave it for 2 minutes, in 1-minute bursts at full power. Then, let cool and chill in the fridge.
About Poorna BanerjeePoorna Banerjee is a food writer, restaurant critic and social media strategist and runs a blog Presented by P for the last ten years where she writes about the food she eats and cooks, the places she visits, and the things she finds of interest. She is deeply interested in culinary anthropology, and food history and loves books, music, travelling, and a glass of wine, in that order.