If I had to pick one, and only one favorite summer food, my vote would go to ‘Masala Kairi’ aka ‘Salted and Spiced Raw Mango’. Nothing can get as simple and basic as this, and yet nothing can match the flavor it brings to your palate. All you got to do is slice up the raw mango, rub it with salt and red chilli powder and there you go!!
I love to eat Masala Kairi with bhel-puri. As kids, our summers would be spent at my nani’s place in Kolhapur, a town in southern Maharashtra. This place is known for its great weather, even in summer and its impossibly spicy food. From misal-pav to Kolhapuri mutton rassa, everything has to look bright red and make your eyes and nose water. So no wonder, even bhel-puri got spiced up a few notches. Normally a salted green chilli would accompany the bhel. But come summer and Masala Kairi would make its heavenly appearance.
There are many variations of Masala Kairi. I have seen some people use chat masala, others use salt and black pepper, and some even add a small pinch of turmeric. In Andhra Pradesh, they make pickle from sun-dried masala kairi. Totally yum!! Speaking of sun-dried, that’s a wonderful way of preserving masala kairi. Dress up raw mango slices as you desire, dry them in the sun for a day or two, pack in air-tight bags or containers and freeze. Now you can enjoy Masala Kairi all year long!
So how do you use it other than with bhel-puri? For starters, munch on the slices for snack. The fiber will fill your tummy and the spices will satisfy your palate really fast. Eaten in limited quantity, it’s a nice snack if you are watching your weight. Make pickles or chutneys with the sun-dried version. Serve it along side various chat items. Add a few slices to your salad to kick up the flavor. Serve it as a side item along with scrambled eggs or anda-bhurji. Just use your imagination! Raw mangoes are a wonderful source of vitamin C and have good amount of vitamin A. So now you can get your vitamins in a delicious way.
When I moved to the US in the late 90s, I somehow completely forgot about this gem. I think it was because of the fact that both kairis and sun (for drying) were hard to find. But as the world has grown smaller in the past decade, I have rediscovered this Lost Treasure. Now kairis are found aplenty in the US. Also since I live in the South now, there is no dearth of sunlight to undertake the preservation process. So if you haven’t had this wonderful treat in a while, what’s keeping you away? With summer being here, as they say in Hindi, ‘Mauka bhi hai or dastoor bhi’.