City Food – Mango Nuggets & Recipes
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is the time of the year when a Mirza Ghalib devotee could offer at his tomb in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti a tribute that would have made the poet very happy.
Yes, one is thinking of mangoes — Ghalib had a weakness for wine and mangoes. And lest you forget, amid all the depressing news about the coronavirus, Delhi is amid its mango season.
In the book Ghalib: Life And Letters, authors Ralph Russell and Khurshidul Islam quote the poet writing in a letter that he “would eat them (mangoes) until my belly was bloated and I could hardly breathe”. In another letter, comparing mango to wine, Ghalib says, “I thought of each mango as a sealed glass, filled with the liquor of grape, and filled with such superb skill that not so much as a single drop spilled from any of the sixty-five glasses.”
The authors ascribe Ghalib’s memoirist Altaf Hussain Hali with a famous mango anecdote about the poet, that also highlights his cheekiness with the powerful: “One day…(Emperor) Bahadur Shah, accompanied by Ghalib and a number of other courtiers, were walking in the Hayat Bakhsh or the Mahtab Garden. The mango trees of every variety were laden with fruits, but the fruits of this garden were reserved exclusively for the king and his queens and members of the royal family. Ghalib looked at the mangoes repeatedly, and with great concentration. The king asked him, ‘Mirza, what are you looking at so attentively?’ Ghalib replied with joined hands, ‘My Lord and Guide, some ancient poet has written:
Upon the top of every fruit is written clear and legibly:
‘This is the property of A, the son of B, the son of C.’
And I am looking to see whether any of these bear my name and those of my father and grandfather.’ The king smiled and the same day had a big basket of the finest mangoes sent to him.”
One afternoon, in the Walled City’s Ballimaran neighbourhood, famous for being Ghalib’s final address, a milk shake vendor was at work—he was too shy to disclose his name. The pavement stall did not have the usual electric mixer. Instead, the young man was preparing the shake in a steel container called dhol, which was lined with crushed ice. The container itself was wrapped in a wet jute bag that cooled the shake by evaporation. The man was churning the mango pulp, mixed with milk and sugar, by a hefty metal ladle. “Some people also add lemon juice and call it aam ki shikanji,” he said. He was serving the shake in plastic cups.
The aforementioned mango lemonade is not seen in the newer parts of Delhi. Indeed, many mango-based dishes, which were a common sight in our city’s dining rooms until a few decades ago, are gradually disappearing. Aam ka meetha pulao, for instance, is a mango-based dessert that is no longer easily available in eateries across the city. “It was a traditional dish in Old Delhi homes, but now it’s a rarity and you can have it only in a few families,” said cookbook author Sadia Dehlvi, who referred The Delhi Walla to her cousin Farah Noor. “I inherited this recipe from my grandmother,” says Ms Noor, who lives in Noida. Explaining that the preparation time is half an hour, she generously gave away the making of the rare dish.
Ingredients (for 2-3 people)
2 mangoes (preferably Alphonso), thinly sliced
1/2 cup mawa/khoya
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup desi ghee
Boil the rice till three-fourths done. Throw away the water. Place a layer of rice on a flat pan. Layer it with khoya followed by mango slices. Sprinkle the sugar over the fruit slices and top with another layer of rice. Sauté two cloves in the ghee in a separate pan and add the mixture on to the rice. Put the pan on dum (slow-cook) for 15 minutes. Mix the pulao just before serving.
To mango, with love