This small tropical fruit grows on trees that may grow up to 25m height. In Kerala it symbolizes insignificance, as the saying goes ‘aana vayil ambazhanga’. The translation is ‘an ambazhanga in an elephant’s mouth’.
Most of these fruits which resembles tender mango seem to go waste as there is not much demand. That is unfortunate. The fruit has an exotic taste. It can be eaten fresh while tender or pickled. The pickling should be ideally done before the nut starts forming. Once the ambazhanga matures, only the skin and the little layer of flesh attached to it are of use. It can be peeled and pickled.
Ambazhanga is used in some Kerala recipes. Prawns and fish curried with ambazhanga can be very tasty. Chutneys and chammanthies made with the fruit are also good. There are many similarities in the uses of ambazhanga in brine and uppumanga (salt mango).
But for me, ambazhanga has another application which is not known to most people. Tender ambazhanga in brine is an excellent snack with cocktails, like olives.
What are the botanical and local names of ambazhanga? I am not sure. It belongs to the Family, Genus: Spondias L.. There are different species in this group. It is often referred to as ‘hog plum’ or ‘hog apple’. I have a doubt that these names mean ‘noni’ (see Medicinal Plants: Noni (Morinda citrifolia) planting for profit?)
I think what is called ambada in Mangalore is of the same specie. Other local names seem to be 'ambarella' in Dutch and Sinhalese, ‘June plum’ (
Branded ambazhanga pickles are available in the market.
Photos: Top two by me. Copyright reserved. Last one from Wikimedia commons.
Also see: Kerala food: Aviyal, Bhima’s own dish, for Onam