June 13, 2015

The Supremacy Debate

Over the years, the debate has been on. Which is the best mango around the world. India loves her mangoes. We produce the world’s highest number of mangoes and export as little as we can since we just eat up most of our produce. I love such passion.

No one can be more passionate about mangoes than Bengalis. And Bengal knows her mangoes. Any true Bengali will tell you that only 2 districts in this world produce the world’s best mangoes. Malda and Murshidabad. Everyone else is just a hopeful imposter.

Ever since I was a child, I have been well trained to identify mangoes and their unique tastes. Even though we fall in the category of the “Mango People” or the commoners, in terms of mango we developed rich and cultivated tastes. Every year we would start in early May, getting irritated with every bite of the first batch of mangoes that would come to Calcutta. Suddenly, people would remember long lost relatives in Murshidabad and Malda. In fact legend has it that I was given away in marriage after strong evidence of Ze Wife’s Grandma’s outstanding culinary skills in making mango pickle. Though this theory is strongly refuted by all.

And that’s not surprising. I remember the day when I was sent off to far away Muzaffarpur, both my grandmas called me up to say that I was going to the land of litchis!!! No farewell, No “take care of yourself”, not even, “Don’t get married without letting us know!”. Plain and simple I was told of litchis. Only later while I had worked on Foods for a long period of time, I realized the importance of provenance.

So I grew up in the summer months of Calcutta eating everything possible that can be made of mangoes in various stages of ripeness. Apart from the whole mangoes, there were pickles, chutneys, sherbets, sweets, puddings, custards and even lentils!!! It was perhaps the only time a self-respecting Bong Household would serve something other than Rosogolla and Fish Fry when people came unannounced.

And as a child, every single year I waited for the Himsagar to arrive!

Last year was the first year of my life when I did not have Himsagar. Maybe it was work, maybe it was an effort to like Alphonsos and treat Badami with some respect that made me wait for Himsagar till I found the entire West of India has not even heard of them. In fact, Langras are also a rarity. Then one day, I found this one vendor from Bihar who said, “Sir, aap jaisa aam ke samajhdaar kahan milte hain aajkal? Yahan log sirf yahan ke aam hi khate hain” He did sell me litchis at a fleecing price of 10 USD per KG but then if you are called a connoisseur, you end up paying!!!

Ze Wife has the bloodline to understand mangoes. So with her for the last few years we have gone ahead and tasted mangoes from outside India. And we feel today like the protagonist of The Alchemist! The Thai mangoes are good only with the sticky Jasmine rice. The ones from Cebu (in the Philippines) are passable at best, and the lesser said about the Chinese varieties, the better. Today my sister started crying on FB saying my niece has to satisfy her love for mangoes with Mexican mangoes which are pretty sour. Can you beat that? Mexican? I am still in shock. So after travelling around the world, and eating almost everything of note except the Spanish mangoes, I have decided it is Himasagar that my heart desires.

Even after this realization, this year, we took it upon ourselves to try every variety of mangoes available in Mumbai but nothing seems to satisfy. Lalbag, Totapuri, Alphonsos, Badami, Kesar, Dasheri, nothing!

Today we finally found some decent langras. And as we were biting into the softness and the sweetness, the evil plan was hatched. Do you know which is the only district that can come close to Malda when it comes to Himasagar? The answer my friend is Rajshahi. And I shall say no more.


Ojas said...

Ahem. I think we are confusing between 'tasty' mangoes and 'sweet' mangoes. While I have never tried Himsagar, most other mangoes, including Langra from the north/eastern side tasted only sweet and lacked character. While in Mumbai, please try "Payari" in form of Aamras. Might just be too late for that, this year :|

Sunita Gandhi said...

Beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing!
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