Now is the season for making manga thera. Here is the description of how we make this delicacy at Olavipe.
Thera is produced by spreading (by hand) several layers of mango pulp thinly on mats made from kaitha (pandanus or screw pine) leaves, and then sun drying it. This can also be done on muram, an almost flat grain winnowing pallet woven from bamboo strips, or panampu (bamboo mat). In all these, the nice pattern of weaving would show on the bottom layer of the thera.
Cots or benches are put out in the sun, on which the mats are placed. The drying is done during the hottest time of the day, say, from 11 AM to 4 PM. Flies and insects won’t be around in the heat. But one has to go out in the sun to do the spreading. The advantage with muram is that it can be brought in to add new layers and put out again.
Usually smaller, juicy nattu manga (native mango) and not the larger table fruits are used. (See: Mango Memories). These are pounded in wooden mortars with the skin on and the pulp taken and sieved. It should be viscose enough to spread thin and even. If required, a little water can be added.
The first three or four layers should be mango pulp only. This is to give the thera a light sour taste. If the mango is too tart, a little sugar can be added. Each coating should be applied when the previous one is almost but not fully dry. Otherwise the new layer won’t stick properly.
For further layers a new ingredient is required – parboiled rice dipped in water and roasted, powdered and strained. Add it in the proportion of ¼ to ½ cup to four cups of pulp, along with sugar as required. Three or four layers of this should be enough.
Then two more layers with 1 cup rice powder to 4 cups pulp and sugar as required. But before this, the edges of the thera should be carefully loosened from the mat. Give a final polish with say ½ cup pulp. Cut into desired size pieces – we normally have 1”x 5” – and dry.
Notes: (1) The proportions are only indicative. Sugar content should be adjusted according to the natural sweetness of the mango. (2) When rice powder is mixed the consistency should be right to spread thinly and evenly. (3) The number of layers with rice powder should be actually determined by the desired thickness. (4) The more the final drying, the thera would be harder but the shelf life would be longer. (5) Some people do not use rice powder or sugar but only mango pulp.
Tail piece: In his interesting blog MUSINGS FROM ANTIQUE ORIGINS Murali Ramavarma talks (http://muralirvarma.blogspot.com/2007/12/nostalgic-thoughts-on-new-year-eve.html) of mangaathira and a special pulisserry made from it. Sounds delicious!
[With inputs from my wife Annie and sister Kochuthresia.]