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I am often faced with these questions when I open my pantry or refrigerator: What should I cook for dinner tonight? Something fresh? The usual stuff? Or perhaps concoct something new and different!

Oftentimes, a quick trip to the neighborhood Indian grocery store gives me inspiration. The other day I was delighted to see an entire stack of fresh green mangoes in a corner. That got me thinking, “Ah, mangoes! I will make my favorite mango dal for dinner tonight!”

Some ardent mango fans may believe that the best recipe for mango is to eat it raw: the green mango with salt and chili powder, or chat masala; or the ripe one by itself. Why cook mango? For these purists, the only permissible transformations of a mango are sherbets, purees, ice creams, uncooked mousses, fresh fruit puddings, and fruit salads. It must be admitted, however, that mangoes are also excellent cooked: as entrees, maanga thokku pickle, chutneys, nut breads, tarts, savory spreads, and relishes.

Mangoes are rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, and anti-oxidants. An average-sized mango can contain up to 40 percent of your daily fiber requirement. It also contains an enzyme with stomach-soothing properties similar to papain found in papayas. These comforting enzymes act as a digestive aid and are partially responsible for that feeling of contentment we experience during and after eating a fresh mango.

This king of fruit originated in India, Burma, and the Andaman Islands. Around the 5th century B.C., Buddhist monks are believed to have introduced the mango to Malaysia and East Asia. Persian traders took the mango back with them to West Asia and North Africa. From there the Portuguese took it to Brazil and the West Indies. Mango arrived in Florida in the 1830s and in California in the 1880s. Today, most mangoes available in the United States are imported from Mexico, Haiti, the Caribbean, and South America. They are in season between January and August.

India is the largest mango producer and consumer in the world. Indians love the tartness of green mangoes and the sweetness and flavor of many varieties. A convenient powder derived from dried raw mango, called aamchur, can be used to add tartness to lentils or curries.

Here’s a recipe for maanga paruppu, similar to the mango dal of North India.



Toor dal with mango
3 cups toor dal
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 pinch asafoetida
1 tablespoon urad dal
4-5 curry leaves
2-3 green chilies chopped fine
2 inches ginger chopped fine
1 medium sized raw green mango, peeled and cut into one-inch cubes, or grated
salt to taste
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon red chili powder
cilantro leaves

Pressure-cook the toor dal for 3-4 whistles and nicely mash it.

Heat oil in a pan. Sputter mustard seeds and add asafoetida. Next, add the urad dal and wait for it to turn golden brown. Add the curry leaves, green chilies, ginger, and mango, and sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add salt, turmeric, and chilli powder. Pour in the cooked and mashed toor dal. Add enough water to bring it to a soup-like consistency. Let it simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve with plain rice, a tiny dollop of ghee for flavor, and perhaps some pappadums.

Hint: If the mangoes are not sour enough, you can add a pinch of aamchur.
My friend from Palakkad, Kerala, makes a delicious mor kootaan with mango, an elaborate version of the North Indian aam kadi.



2 tablespoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
a 4-inch square piece fresh coconut
3 dried red chilies
2 tablespoons chana dal
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 pinch asafoetida
4-5 curry leaves
1 ripe or green mango cut into cubes
salt to taste
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
4 cups yogurt
cilantro leaves

Soak the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, coconut, red chilies, and chana dal in a cup of water for 30 minutes. Then, wet-grind the mixture to a coarse paste.
Heat the oil in a pan. Sputter mustard seeds, add asafoetida and curry leaves. Add the mango cubes, salt, and turmeric powder, and sauté well for about 5 minutes. Slowly add the yogurt and mix well. Add the coarse paste and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, until the yellow liquid starts boiling. Add enough water to bring it to a thick soup-like consistency. Finally, garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve with plain rice and any vegetable curry of your choice.

Vaidehi Madabushi loves cooking and is a connoisseur of great-tasting vegetarian fare.