Dubai: If you are a fan of mangoes, then nothing quite spells summer than this fruit. On the Indian subcontinent, communities in the western parts of the country have made a whole meal of mangoes, called Aamras Puri. This sweet and savoury combination comprises a bowl of chilled sweetened mango puree and piping hot deep-fried bread or puris.
Aamras Puri is a much relished summer food in the two neighbouring western Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat; famous for producing one of the most popular varieties of Indian mangoes – Hapus and Kesar (called regionally) or Alphonso. Also, the go-to mango variety for Aamras. The Gulf News Food team spoke to members of the Indian expatriate community in the UAE, who recounted several childhood tales of Aamras puris and why it remains a summer staple so close to their heart.
Jay Thanki, manager of the family-run Indian vegetarian restaurant, Swades, who belongs to Gujarat, shared a fond memory of this dish from his childhood. He said: “As a child, we used to visit our nani (maternal grandmother) every summer vacation in Gujarat (India). One of the many reasons to look forward to being there was eating Aamras puri. My nani would feed us countless servings of Aamras, after which, the family would settle in for an afternoon siesta.” Today, when his mother recreates the recipe in the UAE, he cannot help getting transported back to his childhood with every bite.
As a child, we used to visit our nani (maternal grandmother) every summer vacation in Gujarat (India). One of the many reasons to look forward to being there was eating Aamras puri. My nani would feed us countless servings of Aamras, after which, the family would settle in for an afternoon siesta
It’s a dish that is often prepared for special occasions. Thanki added: “It happens to be a favourite among people of all age groups and is often served as a summer delight during important social gatherings.”
Another Indian expatriate, Harshida Sarvaiya, who is from Rajkot, a city in the western Indian state of Gujarat, said: “Aamras is synonymous with summer in Gujarat and no Gujarati summer wedding is complete without aamras puri. In fact, during summers, we simply have aamras every afternoon after food.” Call it a dessert or a meal, mangoes are versatile.
Aamras is synonymous with summer in Gujarat and no Gujarati summer wedding is complete without aamras puri
For Amrita chachara, a 37-year-old homemaker based in Dubai, who belongs to Mumbai and was raised in Muscat, Aamras and puri is a yearly summer food. She said: “It’s a popular summer food and makes up for a good weekend meal.” She makes aamras using the seasonal alphonso mangoes available in UAE markets. Chachara added: “During my childhood, I fondly remember my grandmother visiting us during summer breaks and bringing boxes of Alphonso mangoes. That’s when my mum would start the seasonal preparation of aamras and puris. It’s a culinary tradition that I picked up from my mother, and I try to make it for my two kids here, in the hope that they will remember it fondly, too.”
During my childhood, I fondly remember my grandmother visiting us during summer breaks and bringing boxes of Alphonso mangoes. That’s when my mum would start the seasonal preparation of aamras and puris.
The undefeated mango variety to make aamras
Sarvaiya said: “There are many varities of mango that can be used to make aamras - Alphanso, Payri, Kesar, Raja Puri, and Baseri.” However, according to aamras purists, Alphonso wins hands down. For Chachara the sweetness of Alphonso is unmatched and sometimes they tend be naturally so sweet that there is no need to add sugar or jaggery.
Priyanka Shrivastava, a 36-year-old event planner based in Sharjah prefers using Alphonso to make aamras too. She belongs to the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and said that this food combination tastes so good that “it has made its way to so many households, just like mine”. She said: “My 13-year-old son loves mangoes, and every third day we buy a box of mangoes. During summers in the UAE, he needs to have one mango dish every day and the aamras puri combination has become his favourite.”
My 13-year-old son loves mangoes, and every third day we buy a box of mangoes. During summers in the UAE, he needs to have one mango dish every day and the aamras puri combination has become his favourite.
Traditionally aamras was made by squeezing mangoes to extract the pulp, but today cooks make it using a blender said Shrivastava. She added: “The state I belong to is known for regional Indian mango varieties like Badami, Kesar, Neelam and many make aamras using them. However, I use Alphonso because it yields a nice dark orange colour and is naturally sweet.”
Thirty-four-year-old Chef Sawai Singh of Sagar Ratna restaurant, Dubai, who belongs to Rajasthan said: “During my childhood, summertime was associated with boxes of mangoes coming in every other day. And to make use of these large quantities of mangoes, my mother would make massive batches of aamras and invite kids from our village to enjoy them with chapatis (flat breads) or puris.”
A hint of dry ginger powder (also known as saunth regionally) is added in the many Gujarati versions of aamras. For the Maharashtrian version, it’s usually mildly flavoured with cardamom powder.
Chachra added: “I like to add just a little bit cardamom for the flavour, just a hint, not much.”
At a time when there were no refrigerators, mangoes would be soaked in water, left to cool down and then extracted to make a purée. Aamras and puri remains a special dish for the many Indians living outside their homes and they often turn to recipes to recreate the childhood joy.
If you are wondering what to do with the large box of mangoes you received or would simply like to taste what makes aamras puri such a hit with mango enthusiasts, here is a traditional Gujarati recipe to try from restauranteur Jay Thanki:
For this recipe, you will need 4 Alphonso mangoes, soaked in water for about 2 hours, peeled and chopped.
Then using a blender, make it into a purée.
Put it in the refrigerator to chill and then serve with piping hot puris.
Thanki said: “In an authentic recipe, no artificial sweetener like sugar or jaggery is added. Similarly, we do not add milk or water to change the consistency. Even saunth or dry ginger powder is only a recent addition to the dish in many kitchens. The only addition you can do is to garnish it with cardamom powder.”
Note: You can add milk or water if you prefer a thinner consistency.
Here is another recipe to try by chef Sawai Singh:
1 portion Aam Ras
4 Alphonso mangoes
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp saunth or dry ginger powder, optional
A few strands of saffron
1) Begin by rinsing 4 large Alphonso mangoes thoroughly in clean water. Drain all the water and dry them with a clean kitchen towel.
2) Peel and chop the mangoes. Add the chopped mangoes to a blender. Then blend the mangoes to a smooth pulp. Check the taste and add sugar if required.
To make the consistency thin, add some milk or water or a few ice cubes and blend again.
3) Once done, pour the purée into a container. Cover the container and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. Or you can serve right away in small bowls along with piping hot rotis or puris. It tastes best when served chilled.
Do you have a favourite mango recipe to share? Write to us at email@example.com