A translucent love-affair
My love affair with chutneys have not had seen a low day yet right from the moment it began, it began a long time ago, it takes me back to my early childhood. And sometimes I am amazed to find how the memories of chutney from that time-period, has still been carefully stored in my brain cells! I remember with clarity, it was long time ago, I was just entering school in standard 1 and a new family moved in just beside our home. That time most of the spaces around our house were still empty and green, so when this new family appeared I witnessed a new house being built just beside our home. Mom, dad and a young kid- three of them, later on I came to know this young boy was at the same age with me. It didn't take long for our friendship to develop and flourish, later on we entered the same school. While their house was being built they used to live nearby in a rented house and many times me and my mom used to visit them there.
It was the middle of yellow summer, one day after spending hours in the green fields playing and jumping in the burning noon, me n my friend went back to his home, it was time to have a bath and have lunch, while we are still playing inside the house his mother brings this new dish made from mangoes, she feeds this to me and him and I can’t describe in words how it tasted that time…after so many years if I have to describe that taste I will say it was tangy, filled with the amazing flavor of those particular mangoes she used, it was sweet, light translucent yellow in color, by the texture it was runny…later on I came to know it was called “Ambole” and at the top of all of this description..It was divine. It was so tasty that it has stuck to my brain even without my knowledge! When I came back home I told my mother about this and she was excited hearing the detailed description from her little son. Some days later while talking to her, my mother mentions how much I talked about that Mango Ambole , it made her smile hearing about it and guess what! After a couple of days she comes to our home with a bowl full of Ambole! Oh my god! I was so excited, this time she brings an Ambole of Bottle gourd! In Hindi bottle gourd is often called Ghiya/Dhudhi/Lauki, in Bengali it is known as Lau, in English we know this sometimes as Calabash/Long Melon, the biological name being Lagenaria Siceraria. The Ambole was almost translucent with a touch of green in it and it tasted so wonderful- a combination of sweet n sour and the flavor of Lau.
The difference between Ambole and Chutney is in its texture, while chutney is thicker, syrupy, little jam like, Ambole tends to be lighter n runny, more liquid than chutney. Chutney and Ambole both are made from various fruits like mangoes, tamarind, grapes, pineapple, pomegranate, green papaya and much more and often eaten paired with crunchy papad/papadums.
The chutney today I am gonna tell you about is a very special chutney first of all because it is called Plastic chutney! Off course it is made from Plastic sheets, that’s why it is called so.
No. Lol. In fact it is made from green papaya, it is peeled and then thinly sliced, placed in a flavored sugar syrup for some time until the thin slices are cooked through, have absorbed the flavored sugar syrup and have become literally translucent like tiny plastic sheets. So now you know the secret. There are many people who tend to avoid dishes made from raw papaya, but just give them this chutney without telling them what it is made from and watch them getting lost in it, licking their fingers, the bowl…its fun watching that I tell you. Some times less information does a job well. And I think how green papaya does its magic with its humble origin in the tree. And for all those who stay away from green papaya…you are missing out something very nice.
I don’t remember well when n where I first tasted this unique chutney, I must have got its first taste in a feast during a Hindu marriage or on the celebratory gathering when a child is 6 months old and he/she first starts to eat a grain of rice-it is celebrated and it is known as “Annoprashan” where the word “Anno/Anna” means rice. Later on the word ‘plastic chutney’ ignited my curiosity, following that years later I cooked it in my kitchen and that was the first time it was made in our home. Since then I have never stopped.
Now it’s time for the recipe. Bon Appetit! Bhalo Kore Khaben!
For the Recipe: you will need
1 medium raw green papaya
1 cup granulated sugar
2-2 ½ cups water
1-2 tsp of lime juice
1 tbsp kismis/sultana
½-1 tsp mustard seeds
½-1 tsp fennel/mouri/saunf seeds
A pinch of salt
5-6 almonds thinly sliced.
2 tsp flavorless vegetable oil.
1. First peel the green papaya with a peeler, then half it lengthwise, then slice each half into 4-5 sections lengthwise until in the middle their maximum thickness is around 1 inch. Doing that you have around 8 long slices of the papaya. Remove the seeds and thinly slice out the whitish part just beneath the seeds. Now place one of the slice on chopping board, you need a sharp knife now, start to slice as thinly as you can along the breath. You will get like rectangular thin slices with curved edges as you slice. Try to slice as thinly as you can, so a good sharp knife is helpful, also keep in mind if you are not an expert with knifes it will take a bit of time. Be careful with your fingers. Do the same with the other 8 portions with patience, it will take around 15 minutes and you will end up with a heap of sliced papaya.
2. In a saucepan or kadhai or wok, place the sugar, pour the water over it, then put it in low heat, stir in between until the sugar has completely melted, now increase the heat to medium and let it reach a simmer, then pour all the sliced papaya in that, mix well, now lower the heat, cover the pan and now it will take 15-20 minutes until the papaya slices will start to get translucent. After the initial 10 minutes add the kismis/sultanas. You have to stir in between a few times and keep the heat low, if the slices are a bit thick it will take more time for them to go translucent, being thinner it will take less time.
3. After 20 minutes you can literally see they have become translucent, sprinkle a little pinch of salt in then, and then add the lime juice. Taste it, adjust it.
4. In a separate pan heat a tsp of flavorless vegetable oil, let it heat up in a medium flame, when hot add the mustard seeds first, let them start to pop, add the fennel seeds, remove from flame, give them 30 seconds, then pour this whole thing into the chutney and mix.
5. With half a tsp of vegetable oil in low heat in the same pan, add the sliced almonds, toss them with spoon at time until they start to get little light brown, once there remove from heat. Sprinkle them over the chutney. The almonds add a little crunch and their flavor.
And now you should enjoy this after all that hard work J let it make you smile.