Chutney is a general term for spicy relishes and condiments in Indian cuisine. The word “chutney” is derived from the Hindi word “chatni” चटनी which in turn was derived from the Sanskrit word “chatni” which literally means “to lick”. Chutneys originated in India and was used as a method to preserve fruits and vegetables that were in season.
Mango chutney (known as “aam ki chatni” आम की चटनी in Hindi) is a popular type of Indian chutney featuring a harmonious medley of sweet, sour, hot and spicy flavors to tempt the palate. The chutney is served as an accompaniment to rice, roti, chapati, paratha etc.
Traditionally, Indian chutneys are made with jaggery which is an unrefined form of sugar known as “gur” गुड़ in Hindi. Jaggery imparts a distinct flavor that refined sugars cannot match and because of its unrefined nature, jaggery contains micro-nutrients and minerals which refined sugars lack as they have been stripped off during the refining process.
Furthermore, jaggery’s deep brown color lends a richer hue than refined sugar. Consequently, the addition of jaggery yields a better finished product in terms of nutrition, appearance and flavor. Some modern recipes replace jaggery with refined sugar. However, for a more authentic and wholesome mango chutney, use jaggery.
Adjust the quantity of jaggery as required; a good mango chutney should have a good balance of sweet and sour. If it is too sweet it would feel too heavy on the palate (akin to a “sickly sweet” jam) and if it is too sour it would be too unappetizing and neither extremes of tastes are desirable; the sweet and sour tastes balance each other. The more raw and sour the mangoes, the more jaggery may be necessary to balance the sourness. The spices should complement rather than overpower the mangoes.
The mangoes themselves can be cut to wedges, chunks or grated. Wedges and chunks give the chutney body and bite whereas grated mangoes result in a more pulpy and soft chutney. Whether the mangoes should be cut to wedges, chunks or grated is a personal preference. Prepare the mangoes as desired.
Panch phoron পাঁচ ফোরন (also known as panch phoran) literally means “five spices” in Bengali a language spoken in West Bengal (a state in eastern India) as well as in Bangladesh. “Panch” পাঁচ means “five” and “phoron” ফোরন means “condiment” or “spice” in Bengali.
This exotic whole spice mixture which is often featured in Bengali and Bangladeshi cuisines
is comprised of equal portions of cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds (also called black cumin or kalonji) and wild celery seeds.
- 3 medium-sized sour unripe mangoes – washed, peeled and sliced to 1 cm wedges or cut to 1 cm cubes or grated
- Grated jaggery as required (adjust quantity depending on how sour the mangoes are – it could range from a 1/2 cup to more than 1 cup)
- 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoon oil
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon panch phoron – a mix of cumin, fennel, fenugreek, nigella, and wild celery seeds in equal ratios
- 1/2 – 3/4 inch piece of fresh ginger – very finely crushed in a pestle and mortar
- 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons red chili powder
- Pinch of garam masala powder
- Pinch of black salt
- Salt as required
- Half a lime – juiced – adjust quantity depending on sourness of mangoes
Over low flame, heat oil in a non-reactive pot such as an unglazed clay pot.
Roast panch phoron spices until fragrant. Do not burn.
Add crushed ginger and fry till aromatic.
Add chopped mango.
Add red chili powder, garam masala and black salt.
Stir with a wooden spoon to coat the mixture around the mangoes.
Add jaggery, salt and a bit of water if needed. Stir and cook for a short while.
Add lime juice.
Cover with a lid and allow to simmer until the mangoes soften. As the mangoes cook, juices will be released. If the mangoes release very little juices and are too dry, add some water. As it cooks, taste the sauce and make any adjustments as needed. Adjustments should not be made after the chutney is done as that could affect the taste and shelf life of the chutney.
Cook until the sauce thickens slightly and the flavors have melded together.
Take off heat and allow to cool. As it cools, the sauce will thicken further.
Serve at room temperature. Keep refrigerated.