Thursday, September 18, 2008

Kerala food: The humble ‘ambazhanga’

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).


Uppumanga (salt mango) bottom and ambazhanga in brine.

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.


Raw ambazhanga


What are the botanical and local names of ambazhanga? I am not sure. It belongs to the Anacardiaceae 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’ (Jamaica) and 'kedondong' (Indonesia).


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

7 comments:

Kariyachan said...

A distant cousin of ambazhanga called Marula is very common in the Southern African region. There is even a tasty cream liqueur avalivalbe in South africa in the name Amarula, which is enjoyed by the women-folk and the men alike.

Anonymous said...

Hello sir,

Myself Renjith a native of Trivendrum, Kerala. Im settled with my family in Bangalore. I read your writings on the the website regarding the kerala fruit - ambazhanga.

Thank you. I have had this tree very long ago in my family house in 1980's. But, now it is no more. Im looking forward to get one plant or seed of the same and plant it so that my kids will atleast see it and dont forget this one. I will be very thankful if you can provide me some seeds or a plant of this fruit, for me to grow it. I can arrange it to be collected or can come over. I will try to preserve it for the next generation atleast.


Thank you
Renjith
09980504929
renjithr_2000@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Hello sir,

Myself Renjith a native of Trivendrum, Kerala. Im settled with my family in Bangalore. I read your writings on the the website regarding the kerala fruit - ambazhanga.

Thank you. I have had this tree very long ago in my family house in 1980's. But, now it is no more. Im looking forward to get one plant or seed of the same and plant it so that my kids will atleast see it and dont forget this one. I will be very thankful if you can provide me some seeds or a plant of this fruit, for me to grow it. I can arrange it to be collected or can come over. I will try to preserve it for the next generation atleast.


Thank you
Renjith
09980504929

അരുണ്‍ രാജ R. D said...

Hi sir, i liked this post very much.the botanical name of Ampazham is Spondias pinnata. its purely an indegenous fruit native to India, Srilanka and tropical asia. where could i get it from..?

Anonymous said...

Hi sir, The boatanical name of Amapazham is spondias pinnata and its a purely an indigenous fruit, native to India, srilanka and tropical asia. But where could I get it from. Im a research student working on wild edible fruits.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Arun Raja thank you for the comment. I think ambazhanga season is starting. I am not very sure whether it comes to the market.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Anonymous, I think the ambazhanga season is starting. It may sometime come to the market.