Amchur (Mango powder)

The spice amchur is unripe or green mango fruits which have been sliced and sun dried. The name comes from Hindiam, mango. The spice is either whole or ground and sometimes seasoned with turmeric. The mango tree is native to the India-Burma-Malaysia region and is one of the oldest cultivated fruits. In India it has grown for over 4,000 years; the various uses of the fruit are probably ancient. After the European explorations during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it has spread to all parts of the tropical and sub-tropical world, especially Africa. The mango, apart from its place as a fresh fruit is most famous as a chutney or pickle ingredient. The mango retains a special place in Hindu mythology and ritual. Lord Gautama the Buddha was presented with a mango grove and the Mogul Emperor Akbar (1556-1605), ordered a huge plantation of 100,000 mango trees to be planted. The mango tree is a member of the family that includes the cashew and pistachio nut.

The dried slices are light brown with a rough surface. Ripe mango slices are also dried and are orange brown. Amchur powder is finely ground but with a slightly fibrous texture. It is beige in colour. Its flavour is slightlt sweet and acidic.

The use of amchur is confined chiefly to Indian cookery, where it is used as an acid flavouring in curries, soups, chutneys, marinades and as a condiment. The dried slices add a piquancy to curries and the powder acts as a souring agent akin to tamarind. It is particularly useful as an ingredient in marinades, having the same tenderizing qualities as lemon or lime juice. However, where, for instance, three tablespoons of lemon or lime juice are required, one teaspoon of amchur will suffice. Chicken and fish are enhanced by amchur and grilled fish on skewers, machli kabab, is well worth trying.

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