Summers are pickling seasons, especially raw mango pickles. The instant mango pickles made with tiny bits of mango, the sweet/sour/spicy thokku, made with grated raw mangoes, the sweet and sour mango pachadi we make for the New Year and more. These are made throughout the summer, but there are some which are made at specific times. Of these, there are two, one of which is made at the beginning and the other at the end of the summer – the immensely enjoyable the vadu mangai, the tiny baby mangoes which are available for a short duration at the beginning of the season, and the wonderful avakkai that are made from firm mature mangoes, just after the first rains of the season.
There are specific mango varieties which are available in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, which are perfect for this pickle, but we can make do with the local varieties too, and still get a wonderful pickle. The only thing is that, the right variety doesn’t shrink like a wrinkled old person, but mostly retains its original shape, while others don’t. So how does it matter as long as it tastes great?
In many Tamilian homes, we steep leftover rice in water, the previous night. We mash the rice in the water, add some buttermilk and salt and drink it. It is the breakfast of choice in the hot months for the rural folk in Tamil Nadu. At home, we drank this with a table spoon of the vadu mangai tanni (vadu mangai water). Try it sometime. It tastes awesome besides being very cooling during the summer.
You can even make this drink with fresh rice. Mash rice well, add buttermilk to it and a tbsp of the spicy masala solution to it. Drink it for a refreshing pick-me-up or when you are rushed for time and can’t sit down for a meal.