Come summertime and mango season our grandmothers start scheduling their whole day around one thing – pickles. Armed with baskets of mangoes, boxes of spices and bags of salt they spend months curing, salting, seasoning and drying. And god forbid we decide to sample the pickle before it is done or try to touch it. For most of us, those are the only times we will see our grandmothers and mothers truly angry. And for a justified reason, one wrong move and all that hard work will go to waste. But if the process is successful the end result is something that will make us want to eat curd rice three times a day if allowed to – spicy, salty and juicy mango pickle or even better Vadu Mangai.
Vadu Mangai is one the most traditional varieties of South Indian pickles. It is made from tender baby raw mangoes which can be found on mango trees during the months of March and April. Since the baby mango has a lot of fiber in it the pickling process takes place over a long time with some recipes even calling for one whole year. Each family has its own recipe that is closely guarded and passed down generations.
Though tiresome in process the Vadu Mangai has a very few ingredients. Chilli powder and salt are the two primary ingredients used. The best Vadu Mangai pickle calls for the highest quality red chilli powder and baby mangoes of correct size and growth. Storage of the pickle is another important factor. Oorgai Jaadi or traditional pickle jars in the iconic white and mustard yellow colour are the best bet for storage of Vadu Mangai. We all remember reaching out to the jar which our grandmothers would have placed high up the shelf to stop us from finishing it.
The best combination for tangy, spicy Vadu Mangai pickle is cold, creamy curd rice. No matter what age or generation thayir sadham and Vadu Mangai is a favourite for all. We all adore the Vadu Mangai having experiences of eating a plump mango straight from our palm.