Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Kerala Cuisine: Manga thera (mango mat) recipe


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.]

Ends.

Also see: Mango trees: 'ottu mavu' and 'nattu mavu'




8 comments:

Guru said...

I can understand the shelf life and the seasonal mango harvest. These days mango pickles are veritable export items. But for me, it was worth waiting for the mango season. Buy green (raw) mangoes, slice them, sprinkle salt and pepper, and use as side dish with lunch or dinner. The slices can be used in salads to give a tangy taste. During my student days in America, I lived as a member of a vegetarian American
family (vegetarianism was very rare those days in the West)in MidWest, and we used sliced Mexican green mangoes in salads. But nothing compares to the taste of green mangoes a grower used to bring in every mango season to our house in Mysore and charge a very resonable price. He did this for decades.

sunita said...

Summer is always associated with maanga thera season in my mind. Somehow a quick scoop of partially dried thera, sneaked from the murram while ammachi was not looking, was even more delicious than the real thing. Why? ... ask any kid who fights over who'll get to lick the spoon coated with cake batter and he / she will tell you about the wonders of promised ecstasy lying hidden within it :-)

sunita said...

Summer is always associated with maanga thera season in my mind. Somehow a quick scoop of partially dried thera, sneaked from the murram while ammachi was not looking, was even more delicious than the real thing. Why? ... ask any kid who fights over who'll get to lick the spoon coated with cake batter and he / she will tell you about the wonders of promised ecstasy lying hidden within it :-)

Murali RamaVarma said...

Great to read on such nostalgic subjects from someone as seasoned as AT! I am on holidays and just the other day , I was discussing with my Dad on this exotic and delicious subject. My mom had prepared some wonderful "Mampazha pulissery" and Dad was reminiscent of the old days of Manga Thera, especially made from the local variety of mangoes of yore known as "Chanthrakkaran".So sad that we have not patented and taken care of and preserved such varieties of mangoes as Chanthrakkaran! Thank you AT for the wonderful recipe.

Swarna said...

Thanks for the very detailed recipe. After reading it, I decided that I will satisfy myself with nice fruits this mango season, and make the thera in the next! :)

Abraham Tharakan said...

guru, sunita, murali and swarna, thank you for your comments. Actually, these days one doesn't have to wait for the mango season to make thera. Packed mango pulp is available in the stores.

alwaysaloneandscared said...

Will anyone please tell me where I can buy 'manga thera' from? I live in the US and I have been searching online for a very long time.
If there are any places in Kerala I can buy manga thera, please let me know.. Your help is much appreciated.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Hello alwaysaloneandscared, I too have searched several stores for genuine Kerala ‘manga thera’. I don’t think it is commercially available.

What is obtainable is ‘mango mat’ which comes from other S. Indian states. It is a totally different product which is basically dried mango juice/pulp.

I can suggest some alternatives for you. One is to write to big chain stores like Varkeys in Cochin. They outsource several traditional Kerala delicacies like ‘oulose unda’ and ‘churut’. It is possible that they might be interested in ‘manga thera’. The mango season is coming up.

The other possibility is to make it yourself provided you have the time and the inclination, using packaged mango pulp. I don’t think anyone has tried it but possibly you could experiment with oven drying at low temperatures, if sun drying facility is not available. Just a wild idea.

Perhaps you could ask some relative/s living in Kerala to make it for you, based on the recipe given in this post.

If I come across any source (quite unlikely), shall announce it on my blog.