Aamer Ombol and Aam Porar Sharbat: green mango refreshers
This is one of a series of posts for Vegan MoFo 2010; my theme was a 'Virtual Random Road Trip', where I used random.org's random geographic location generator to select locations around the globe, I then attempted to cook a few dishes from the traditional cuisine of that place. I didn't have a lot of time between generating the locations and coming up with recipes (~ 1 day). So, lacking time to do proper research, I can't vouch for the authenticity of anything I came up with. However, they are what they are, and it was a fun theme.
This post couldn't be less appropriate to the local weather here at the moment. Both of the recipes are cooling summer treats, while here in the Pacific Northwest, we're having our first snow of the season.
Yet, the roadtrip happened upon Bangladesh and while searching for recipe ideas, these two caught my eye. I'm not trying to imply that the weather in Bangladesh is terribly warm at the moment. From what I can gather, April tends to be the hottest month there, while January is the coolest month with temperatures averaging in the mid-70's F. According to an online weather site, it's 84F and clear in Dhaka today. But, I digress.
I was a bit befuddled over the weekend, trying to figure out what to make for this destination...I quickly came to find that there are many regions, so many dishes: some sort of familiar, others completely new to me...Where to begin? What to do? How to begin on the path of the unititiated?
After all that, I decided to try a beverage and a cold soup, both made with green (unripe) mango. I have a confession about these recipes: I believe they are common in West Bengal, but I do not know for sure whether they are also common in Bangladesh. I'm hoping that they are...as I say, befuddled.
I'll begin with the chilled soup: Aamer Ombol – Chilled Green Mango Soup
This was my favorite of the two items. A thin, cooling soup, usually eaten as part of a meal during hot summer months, it consists of green mango, dusted with turmeric and then simmered with chili, mustard seeds, and some sugar. If you're interested, I highly recommend reading the engaging post (with full recipe).
Note: In the recipe link above, I think she leaves out the turmeric on the ingredient list, but mentions it in the directions. I just sprinkled the fruit with a light dusting of turmeric before adding it to the pot to simmer.
Not surprisingly, it tastes like stewed fruit, pleasantly settling on the tastebuds somewhere between sweet and slightly savory. The chili in my batch (I used 1 small chili) was not too strong; I think I would have preferred it a little hotter. The turmeric and the mustard seeds add a mellow dimension and it turns into a mild soup with sort of a deep undertone (if that makes sense). It's easy to imagine this being very suitable and welcome in hot weather. As it was, I was happy to eat it for breakfast, amidst the snow.
The next item is called Aam Panna, or Aam Porar Sharbat (in West Bengal)
I forgot to save some mint for a garnish, (darn it), but this is a beverage made with roasted unripe mangoes, mint, cumin, black salt, and green chilis. (In case you haven't guessed, aam = mango.) It's a cool beverage, meant to be the consistentcy of orange juice rather than a thicker shake-like drink. Again, I encourage you to read through the delightful post where I found the full recipe.
After you roast the mangoes, you remove the skins, collect the pulp and blend it with the mint and other spices, along with enough water to acheive the correct consistency. It was a fun process, and the drink is wonderfully minty. I have to say, the cumin was a bit strong for my tastes, and making this again, would reduce the amount by half. According to the recipe, using the kala namak, or black salt, is essential to the flavor.
Post scriptum: I used the wrong kind of salt! The salt I used is indeed black, but it was black lava salt, the Hawaiian kind. Oh well, next time I'll try it with real kala namak! Thanks to Laurie for pointing me in the right direction.
...Looking in on the colorful world of aam from the snow: