The rains came unexpectedly early this month, and while we got a much needed reprieve from the scorching summer heat, it suddenly grew from a light drizzle to a full blown thunderstorm. Laundry drying on rooftop lines flew away, window panes shattered, trees were uprooted and there was all kinds of chaos.
Meanwhile in our Achen’s (uncle’s) mango orchard, thousands of plump, little green mangoes that he had nurtured with love and compost, chasing away crows and rampaging monkeys, waiting patiently for them to ripen to their full potential and turn golden, sweet and delicious, fell to the ground.
Farmers are used to such heartbreak and I imagine that he stoically gathered them up into gunny bags to distribute to his neighbors, family and friends. These mangoes would not ripen and were not worth taking to the market. His silent disappointment perhaps filled up the sack of green mangoes that he sent to us, too.They were mouth puckeringly bitter and too sour to eat.
My sister would have disagreed, dunking chunks of green mango slices into red chili powder and salt and enjoying the contrast of spicy and tangy. My mother in law had them brined to temper the sharp edge of their bitterness, and made pickle, green mango chutney and fish curry.
We were determined to relish every single mango Achen shared with us, as if to somehow make up for his loss. I made aam panna granita. Immediately, everything, life, was better!
Aam panna, is a very popular North Indian summer drink made with green mango pulp, infused with spices and pungent black salt. It is known to have cooling properties, in addition to aiding digestion and being full of vitamin-c. I tasted it for the first time when visiting a friend in Delhi almost a decade ago. After being out all day in the intense Delhi sun shopping for fabric at the bustling Sarojini Nagar market, we got back to her home, hot, sweaty and tired, to be greeted by tall glasses of this weird looking, speckled yellow-green drink that her mother had thoughtfully made for us. The drink was cool and refreshing as it flowed down my parched throat, the then unfamiliar flavors of black salt and cumin dancing on my tongue. In aam panna the often underappreciated green mango is celebrated for what it is: tantalizingly sour with just a slight hint of sweetness.
Summer is meant for aam panna and is even better with aam panna granita! It’s refreshing and cooling abilities get kicked up a notch. Especially on an extra hot day, nothing hits the spot like these sweet-sour, salty-spicy ice flakes that melt away the heat. Try it, you will never again look at raw green mango with scorn or impatience, wishing they were ripe.
Aam Panna Drink Recipe
- Green Mango- 4
- Sugar- ½ cup or to taste
- Roasted cumin powder- 1 tsp
- Black Salt / Kaala Namak- 1/2 tsp or to taste ( can substitute with regular salt to taste)
- Slit the the green mangoes in half, place in a saucepan or pressure cooker with enough water to just cover them
- Cook until they are soft and mushy and the peel comes off easily.
- Once cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh off the seed and discard both the seed and the peel
- Blend the pulp and water in a mixie/blender and strain it with a wide meshed sieve back into the saucepan, stirring the pulp to help it strain faster
- Add sugar, spices and salt and heat the strained pulp on simmer until all the sugar has melted.
- Store the cooled aam panna mix in the fridge.
- When ready to serve, pour the aam panna mix into a glass to fill it about a third, fill the rest of the glass with water. Stir, adding some lime juice and muddled mint leaves if desired.
Aam Panna Granita Recipe
- To make aam panna granita, first make the drink as mentioned above or use store bought juice like Paper Boat Aam Panna
- Pour into a cake pan or some other wide, shallow container, making sure the liquid level comes up to only an inch or so high and freeze.(You can also use ice pop moulds if you have them. Basically we want the drink to freeze into a thin layer that is easy to break up. You don’t want to be breaking up chunks of ice that are too thick.)
- Once the drink is frozen solid ( in a couple of hours) scrape and break it up with a fork into fluffy, flaky ice crystals.
- Enjoy either as spoonfuls or slurp up with a straw!
The next time I make this I will definitely try spiking with a little vodka and a green chilly or two!