Bhel puri (Indian snacks)

The first time I tried bhel puri was at the end of a long shift at an Asian trade fair in London. A colleague bought us plastic bowls of the puffed rice snack from an onsite caravan. It had been a weary day and – possibly expecting a curry – I was a bit underwhelmed by a dish whose main ingredient seemed to be rice bubbles.

Perhaps I needed to be strolling along a beach at sunset instead of in a conference centre with no natural light in Wembley.

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Served in a paper cone from a Mumbai beachside vendor – Chowpatty Beach gets special mention – is the natural setting for this chaat.

Years later, I have now tried the version at Satya in Auckland’s Sandringham. One of the features of chaat (Indian snacks-plus) is great texture, particularly from its crunchy elements. Bhel puri has this in spades. The combination of puffed rice with toasted lentils and chickpeas as well as nuts and fried gram flour provides the crunch. Topped with chutneys (date/tamarind and coriander), fresh onions, coriander leaves, as well as cooked potato and tomato tossed through, you get your tanginess, freshness and sourness.

Bhel puri… the original rice bubble snacks

A photo posted by Claire McCarthy (@foodster_feed) on

 

While the concept of chaat, which is a group of snacks or streetfoods that have a range of textures and flavours, is 20th century in origin, puffed rice, the basis of bhel puri goes back centuries – much further than Kellogg’s. It’s even offered as a gift to the gods in southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

In Feast and Fasts: A History of Food in India, author Colleen Taylor Sen explains how rice was well estabished in India (from China) by the third century BC. Around this time a kind of flattened puffed rice, produced by cooking rice in hot sand, was recorded in South India. Today puffed rice is still cooked in hot sand in traditional areas in Bengal where it’s called muri. See Nom Nom Panda’s post on making puffed rice by different methods. The Kelloggs technique to making puffed rice came about in the early 20th Century.

Mumbai is on the opposite coast of India to Bengal and well north of Kerala, yet it’s Mumbai that bhel puri has become closely linked to – showing how with chaat we have this contemporary food that has roots and connections across the country.

Samosa chaat (Indian snacks)

Who walks into an Indian food store and doesn’t come out with a samosa? These golden packages at the counter promise to bring to life all those exotic raw spices lining the shelves behind you. An instant masala burst for a dollar or two.

Samosa has been in India a long time. It is based on the Arab sambusak, a delicate triangular pastry filled with the fruit, nut and meat combinations associated with the Middle East. By the 1200s much of North India was under Muslim rule and these Persian delicacies spread south into the Indian sub-continent.

And the best thing is there's a samosa smashed up under there…. Link in profile.

A photo posted by Claire McCarthy (@foodster_feed) on

Over time they became more of a robust portable snack (like the Cornish pasty). They attracted an Indian spice mix and – following the discovery of the New World – potatoes and chillies became an essential part of the common samosa. The samosa went global with the Indian diaspora. (Read more on the samosa evolution here on bbc.com)

So that’s the samosa. Samosa chaat takes these delicious morsels, smashes them into pieces and smothers them with a chickpea masala, yogurt, tamarind and coriander chutney and crunchy sev (strands of fried chickpea flour) topping. It’s amazing.

I’m delving into south Asian food in my Auckland neighbourhood of Sandringham, and in the spirit of foodster, I’m trying to find the story that goes with the food.

Chaat is a group of Indian snack dishes that bring together different textures and flavours.

It is also casual social food, eaten between larger meals so going for a chaat is like going for a coffee. It is loved by commuters and those at leisure alike, often sold streetside by chaat wallah (vendors) who have been trading at busy city spots for generations.

Apparently it makes a lot of Indians around the world homesick.

Common features are they include crispy parts like bits of dough, chickpea or lentil, puffed rice or peanuts. They often have yogurt, tamarind chutney, coriander, lemon, or raw red onion for that contrast of sour, tangy, fresh.

More chaat to come… next time from the beaches of Mumbai.

Samosa chaat can be sampled at the following chaat wallahs in Auckland:

Mumbai Chaat, 1 Kitchener St, Sandringham

Just off Sandringham Road roughly opposite the new Lord Kitchener pub, this offers a full range of Mumbai street food cooked by a family hailing from Mumbai.

Saattveek, 570 Sandringham Road, Sandringham

The light blue restaurant on the corner of Calgary St, this has a range of snacks and dishes from Maharashtra, the 120-million-population province that Mumbai is part of.

Vada pav (Indian snacks)

As we delve into the amazing range of chaat (Indian snacks), vada pav is another white bread-based favourite – popular in Mumbai, across India and where Indian populations have settled, like Auckland’s Sandringham.

Indian snacks in Auckland's Sandringham. This is vada pav – see more at foodster.co.nz

A photo posted by Claire McCarthy (@foodster_feed) on

The invention of the double-carb hit of yeasty bread (the ‘pav’ and a spicy potato patty dipped in gram flour for crispiness) is attributed to Ashok Vaisya in the 1970s. This vendor would sit outside the Dadar railway station and sell batata vada (the fried patties). One day he put them in a pav and served them with chutney. An on-the-go hit was born. (Thank you, Wikipedia). Just like pav bhaji, they are from the populous Maharashtra province. The two starches here – the bread and potatoes – were Portuguese introductions to India in the 1600s. But the masala mix, gram flour coating, chutneys, and street food style are all very Indian.

(You can also order batata vada, which is the spiced potato patty, on its own).

I think along with the aloo tikki, the vada pav’s popularity helped inspire the famous McDonald’s McAloo Tikki burger, a spiced vege and potato patty in a white bun that McDonald’s sells a lot of in India.

Where to buy in Auckland

Mumbai Chaat, 1 Kitchener St, Sandringham
Just off Sandringham Road roughly opposite the new Lord Kitchener pub, this offers a full range of Mumbai street food cooked by a family hailing from Mumbai.

And recommended by a reader – this vada pav looks amazing…

Jango Mumbai Streetfood, 5 Elliott Street, CBD, Auckland

Pav bhaji (Indian snacks)

Chalking up five years in Auckland’s Sandringham I should probably be more fluent in Indian eatery menus. There are 15 or so South Asian outlets within the main village shops, with an ongoing dance of new arrivals and extensions.

Shoppers from all over the city come for bulk cooking supplies or specialist ingredients or prepared curries from stores and kitchens.

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Across these spots is a trove of chaat, the broad term for savoury Indian snacks, incorporating an extensive flavour and texture range including crunchy, spicy, salty, sweet and sour.

As BonAppetit.com say about chaat – it’s for anytime, “…Light enough to be eaten for breakfast or as an afternoon snack, but satisfying enough to take the place of lunch or dinner. Plus, you can find it anywhere there’s Indian food—it’s even for sale in the back of many Indian grocery stores.”

Almost every store in Sandringham has a cabinet or bowl of something to eat on the go, and many eateries specialise in canteen-style hot dishes.

Our first spotlight is on the snack pav bhaji, one of several popular dishes using white Western-style bread (also see vada pav).

Pav bhaji

I first came across pav bhaji in Meera Sodha’s Made in India, a cookbook of fresh Indian inspired recipes from a British cook of Asian heritage.

It is a dish of masala-simmered vegetables (potato, cauliflower and eggplant particularly) that are mashed to create the bhaji, served with a large piece of melting butter. This is mopped up by soft white buns (the ‘pav’) and eaten with fresh coriander and red onion. I followed Meera’s recipe here (although I went a bit lighter on the tomato component, so it’s not so red).

Pav bhaji #chaat #bread #butter see: https://foodster.co.nz/2016/11/01/pav-bhaji-indian-snacks/

A photo posted by Claire McCarthy (@foodster_feed) on

India’s range of culinary influences is extraordinary, and it was the Portugese who brought white leavened bread to India in the 1600s. With a committed Catholic population who required bread for Mass, they went to great lengths to make bread in a country where this was very difficult, according to Lizzie Collingham in ‘Curry’. The unavailability of yeast meant they used toddy to achieve a rise.

Pav bhaji (‘pav’ comes from the Portugese ‘pao’) was a street food served at stalls for textile mill workers in Mumbai from the 1850s.

There are debates over what kind of bread should be used – it seems enriched with more butter is popular. And speaking of butter, it should be Amul, the favourite Indian brand famous for its regular satirical cartoons of Indian and international affairs. (You can get this at Spice Supermarket).

Where to order Pav Bhaji in Auckland 

Mumbai Chaat, 1 Kitchener St, Sandringham
Just off Sandringham Road roughly opposite the new Lord Kitchener pub, this offers a full range of Mumbai street food cooked by a family hailing from Mumbai.

Saattveek, 570 Sandringham Road, Sandringham
The light blue restaurant on the corner of Calgary St, this has a range of snacks and dishes from Maharashtra, the 120-million-population province that Mumbai is part of. (I love this recommendation of Saattveek on a blog called maharashtrianrestaurants.com – where the sole NZ review sits alongside dozens from India).

Gua bao (steamed buns)

Auckland diners are becoming very familiar with pillowy steamed white dough prised open and stuffed with flavoursome pork and other fillings – the treat known as gua bao.

This is different from a Chinese steamed bun with the filling enclosed…. With the Taiwanese gua bao the filling is added once the plain dough comes out of the bamboo steamer, sometimes put together at the table by the lucky eater.

Taiwanese-style gua bao has the nickname 'tiger bites pig'

Taiwanese-style gua bao has the nickname ‘tiger bites pig’

It is the flagship dish of popular Auckland eatery Chinoiserie in Mt Albert, which produces an endless evening stream of gua bao (they call them ‘milk buns’) filled with pork, Sichuan chicken, tofu, beef and lamb in their delightful and kitschy ex-suburban Chinese takeaway.

It was Korean-American chef David Chang of Momofuku/Lucky Peach fame who made these buns famous in the US. Momofuku in New York call them ‘pork belly buns’: a slab of pork belly slipped into one of these pillows and topped with hoisin sauce, pickles, cucumber and spring onions. Chang says he basically took the flavours of Peking duck pancakes… and swapped out the pancakes for buns and the duck for pork… it’s a combination that people still queue for 10 years on.

The classic Taiwanese gua bao combination has braised pork, peanut powder (made of crushed peanuts and rock sugar – two of Taiwan’s most important crops), along with coriander and pickled mustard greens.

In northern China wheat products are more prevalent than rice, and generally this is where wheat-based buns or dumplings are from (bao is any kind of bun/dumpling). But it was in the cultural slosh-pot of Taiwan that the gua bao was born.

Cathy Erway explains in her book The Food of Taiwan that the most significant migration to the island was in the late 1940s after the Communists ousted the Kuomintang from China. The Kuomintang set up military villages in Taiwan attempting to run a ‘Republic of China’ from the island; more than one million people came from China in just a couple of years. These villages became melting-pots of cuisine from all over China, as well as drawing on influences from indigenous people, crops and from earlier migrants. In the crammed, hastily-built villages, families not only had to live close but, with limited facilities, needed to share the cooking. It was here that bread from the north met southern Fujian (Hokkien) or Hunan-style braised pork from the south, topped with local herbs and peanuts.

According to Robyn Eckhardt on the Wall Street Journal blog, at end-of-the-year celebrations in Taiwan  employers give their staff gua bao – with its overflowing filling resembling a purse stuffed with money. Gua bao has a nickname: hu yao zhu, or ‘Tiger Bites Pig’.

Where to eat gua bao in Auckland 

  • Chinoiserie, 4 Owairaka Ave
  • A few kilometres down Mt Albert Road from Chinoiserie, the Auckland suburb of Royal Oak is home to another standout Asian-inspired restaurant, the Filipino-influenced Nanam (126 Symonds St, Royal Oak). They have a variant of gua bao (they call it tacopao) with small beetroot pink buns served with braised pork.
  • Judge Bao, mobile vendors, also make a super version with free range pork and quality ingredients. They can be found at Ponsonby Street Food Collective

 

Salted caramel

Tip Top ran a stunt in Auckland recently to promote its new chocolate and salted caramel Trumpet. A company delivery truck “broke down” by the park in New Zealand’s media heartland and Instagram epicentre of Grey Lynn, with the hope of generating some social media excitement about its new flavour.

salted caramel

Tip Top’s new chocolate and salted caramel trumpet

Our biggest ice cream maker needed creative marketing to generate noise – salted caramel, which has been an ascending star of food trends for more than a decade, no longer has the novelty factor to pull on its own. Especially when the mass market version is diluted of its defining feature: the dribble of salted caramel on the Trumpet doesn’t taste especially salty, it just tastes like (perfectly nice) caramel.

What I’m really looking for with salted caramel is a few flecks of ‘fleur de sel’, those crystals of salt that inject a crunchy, salty burst. If you’re looking for a supermarket product that delivers this I can recommend the Lindt chocolate bar ‘caramel with a touch of sea salt’.

Food trends start with an idea at a high-end restaurant or with an unknown ethnic ingredient or dish, and make their way into high-end cooking magazines, mid-upper range restaurants or premium artisan products at farmer’s markets or specialty food stores, into the women’s mags, and finally, plonk, into the mainstream through fast food restaurants or supermarkets. Where they become the new normal, and you stop noticing it. So a pork sandwich isn’t pork any more, it’s always a pulled pork sandwich; caramel isn’t caramel anymore, it’s always salted caramel.

Salted caramels originate from Brittany in France. While sounding like they should be a much older local delicacy they were invented by Henri Le Roux, a Breton chocolatier and caramelier in 1977.

Brittany was one of the only counties in France where butter contains salt. Ancient taxation laws meant salt was traditionally taxed in other parts of France, but not in Brittany (or the Low Countries) so it is only Breton butter that was distinctively salty.

Le Roux opened a chocolate shop and began experimenting with caramels made with salted butter (a signature variety included crushed walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds for added texture), and he topped them with flaky sea salt, like fleur de sel.

He must have got used to refuting that so-and-so’s grandmother made salted butter caramels before him in Brittany, saying he has found no written recipe or record. The French were obviously happy with that, voting his salted butter caramels the French sweet of the year in 1980.

When Pierre Hermé, the Parisian pastry chef, invented a salted caramel macaron in the late 1990s, chefs everywhere went crazy for it, and salted caramel went international.

By 2008, the NY Times was calling salted caramel the flavour of the year, arguing then that it had hit ‘stage five’ – the mass market point for food trends (yes our NZ salted caramel peak is seven years delayed…) 2008 was the year Haagen Dazs released a salted caramel ice cream flavour in the US and when Wal Mart released salted caramel truffles.

That NY Times article attributes a few parallel factors to the ascendancy of salted caramel: the fact Americans have always had a liking for salty-sweet, eg cracker jack popcorn and snickers bars; the South American confection dulce de leche putting caramel back on the Western food map in the 2000s; and the rise of specialty salt flakes like fleur de sel from France or Maldon from England elevating the status of plain old salt, making them a suitable companion to fine sweets.

Feijoas (part two)

It’s been three Autumns since we moved back to suburban Auckland, and discovered we had a feijoa tree. Three years since the anticipation of having our own feijoas was quickly followed by the sense of being overwhelmed by bags and bowls of rapidly perishing fruit.

I think I have managed to bring my feelings in check and a sense of mental order to the annual feijoa fall, and this year at least, we are managing to cook, eat, or share, our daily lawnful. Their short season and poor keeping qualities mean it’s not a harvest you can have hanging around. I now know who will take them with pleasure, and aren’t just taken aback by another offer of feijoas.

I have come back to enthusiasm for this delicious fruit we Kiwis have made our own. Like Christmas, the annual season brings its familiar traditions: collecting the overnight fruit drop dotted with morning dew; cutting, scooping, gorging; leaving in bagfuls at work or on doorsteps, or even outside on the berm “take them!”; baking, chutney-making and recipe swapping. I love how often the word feijoa appears so often in April conversations.

Some streets in Auckland have feijoa trees right along the berms and attract walkers and carloads who come and pick up the windfall.

But while the suburbs continue with their perennial tradition, in the commercial food world the feijoa has finally come of age, or indeed of existence at all. When I was a child the feijoa had little visibility outside the annual season.

But now it is on store shelves year-round. Major alcoholic and soft drink lines seems to carry feijoa variants, from Pheonix and Charlie’s through to the ciders like Old Mout. My grandmother’s feijoa wine was a quirky flavour, but she was well ahead of the trend curve.

A year or two after I moved to London in 2002 a NZ visitor arrived with the best possible gift: a bottle of Feijoa 42 Below vodka. Liquid feijoa after several years without that distinctive smell and flavour (with the vodka a plus) was pretty special.

But the best way to enjoy this short-seasoned, most community-oriented of fruit is to sit down with a teaspoon, a knife and a big bag of them until stuffed.

Black pepper

A friend of mine came back from Cambodia with a gift of peppercorns – some of the world’s best, the product of a traditional industry in Kambot that has re-emerged in the last 30 years as peace has been restored to the nation. Since 2008 Kambot peppercorns have had protected geographical status, like champagne.

Kambot pepper beef dish

Cambodian beef with Kambot pepper and lime

I hadn’t thought about the quality of peppercorns before. Pepper is always there, the P to salt’s S, the lucky spice that escaped the tucked-away spice rack to become an ever-present centrepiece on the dinner table.

Before Europeans stumbled upon chilli (which is not a pepper) in the 1500s along with other delights of the New World, heat in food in Europe and Asia came from black pepper (pipris negrus), which originates from trees found on the Malabar coast in southern India, and with plantings long-established in other hot parts of the world.

Black pepper with its warm pungency, rather than sharp heat, has been traversing the globe for thousands of years. Highly valued, it was sometimes used instead of currency in the Middle Ages, and was even found stuffed up the nostrils of mummies much further back in ancient Egypt. (This is a decent history of S&P, separately and together: http://www.thehistoryvault.co.uk/salt-pepper).

For around 1500 years from the time of the Roman Empire a common trade route went from India through Egypt and onto Italy. The growth of city-states like Venice came from their wealth and power as gateways supplying highly-priced spices, like pepper, into Europe.

In Cambodia black pepper has been grown for around 700 years. Intensive production occurred from the 1870s when the French had colonised the country and demand for pepper in Europe made it Cambodia’s primary export. It was Kambot pepper that was the preferred choice of chefs for classic French dishes like steak au poivre (pepper steak).

Having sampled Kambot pepper, it has floral notes that smooth out the punchiness and leave a warm aftertaste. Even in the dish pictured here with a marinade of chilli, garlic, ginger, soy, fish sauce, lime and other powerful flavours, the cracked pepper stood out (black pepper needs to be chunky).

Kambot lettuce leaf

Lettuce leaf with beef and lime and pepper dipping sauce

Kambot pepper trees are grown in valleys bordering Vietnam and the peppercorns are harvested by hand only when ripe, and sun-dried. During the communist Khmer Rouge era from the 1970s the industry fell away, but over the last 20 years families have been replanting and creating successful businesses again. See this Channel 4 (UK) piece where the hosts visit a plantation and cook with Kambot pepper. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jlgb2owcqt0

The French and pepper have an interesting relationship. When the classic French cuisine was developing and being codified in the royal courts on the 17th century, chefs like La Varenne were generally chucking out the heavy foreign spices that had dominated French cooking since the Middle Ages, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, the cardamom etc – all except for pepper. Despite being exotic, black pepper was given a special place in French cuisine alongside parsley and other local herbs. This was how the tradition of the table pairing of salt and pepper started – seen as two fundamental flavour enhancers.

Not everyone agrees on pepper’s permanent position on the table though – see this Slate article where the author proposes alternate partners for salt: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2012/01/salt_and_pepper_why_are_they_always_together_.html.

In my mind there are probably some foods that black pepper is ground over by habit but adds little to, but there are so many that aren’t quite right without freshly ground pepper – especially simpler, almost nostalgic, dishes of fresh produce or meat and fish that can almost speak for themselves, just not quite… corn on the cob, cheese and tomato on crackers or toast, avocado, pumpkin soup, pan-fried fish, roast beef, salmon and cream cheese bagels…

And today I’ve cooked something that celebrates pepper as part of a more complex flavour blend; it’s a Rick Stein Kambot pepper dish that he enjoyed when he was in Cambodia.

What to cook with black peppercorns

Rick Stein visited Kambot for his Far Eastern Odyssey programme, and his Cambodian marinated beef with lime and black pepper dipping sauce can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/cambodianmarinatedbe_91768. This is pictured above.

Meyer lemons

Growing up in Auckland we never bought lemons, there always seemed to be one on the tree in the garden – and when ours occasionally wasn’t fruiting, then someone else’s was.

By late winter in Auckland when the city’s suburbs are at their most colourless, trees stripped leafless under overcast skies, it’s the glow of citrus that stands out, laden on front garden fruit trees.

Lemons are forever current in cooking, but they’re also nostalgic. All those hundreds of thousands of lemon trees planted over decades in Kiwi gardens, still fulfilling the same job that they were planted for while home owners come and go, and the world changes around them.

Lemons grow well in our climate with the combination of sunshine, rain and being able to withstand cold snaps. This productiveness has made the lemon a staple New Zealand flavour.

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The lemon that reigns among others for me is the juicy lemon-mandarin cross known as Meyer. This super-fruiter is especially prominent in our kitchen heritage: various grandparents of mine put them into baking (madeira cake), preserves (lemon honey), served with dinghy-caught pan-fried snapper, and even turned into wine (yep). I like how the home garden, especially the fruit and vegetables, feels like a connection to my much-loved, industrious war-generation grandparents – all gardeners.

The Meyer originates from China and is named after the US agricultural explorer, Frank N. Meyer, who found it growing as an ornamental pot-plant near Peking (now Beijing) in 1908. At that stage the US Department of Agriculture sent these explorers to every corner of the earth and would then propagate the seeds of their discovery, sending out millions to farmers across the US to see what took. The Meyer did well in California, Florida and Texas. (It’s a key ingredient of California cuisine too, as popularised by chefs like Alice Waters from Chez Panisse – she has a seminal Meyer lemon cake which can be seen here).

Here in NZ, we have our own intrepid personality to thank for the arrival of Meyers to our country– Hayward Wright – who had orchards in Avondale, Auckland, and introduced fruit never before seen in NZ, including the Meyer lemon, the Satsuma mandarin and the Chinese gooseberry/kiwifruit. (Wright was so instrumental in developing kiwifruit cultivars the most common green kiwifruit is named the ‘Hayward’ after him).

An Auckland Star article from 1929 explains the popularity of Wright’s stand at the Auckland Winter Show – people were keen to save money by growing their own fruit, and found his trees reliable, climatised and prolific. (Auckland Star, 9 July 1929)

A NZ Herald article (14 August 1928) describes the emergence of the Meyer, foretelling the way it went on to punctuate our gardens…

“The Meyer lemon has attracted considerable attention during the past two to three years. The amazing fruiting abilities of one and two-year-old trees of this variety have evoked considerable favourable comment…. It seems as though it is merely a matter of time before the Meyer becomes the popular lemon on the market.” (These old newspapers are all searchable on the National Library’s Papers Past site – what an amazing portal into our heritage!)

While Meyers grow fantastically at home, they tend not to often be found in supermarkets (which may be part of their charm). Meyers actually don’t store that well once picked. The supermarkets need something tougher like the yen ben, which is also New Zealand’s main export lemon – it’s more sour, a duller yellow, and less generous with its juice (but to be fair probably has a stronger lemon flavour than the Meyer).

lemonhoneytoast

I decided to make my grandmother’s lemon honey because this was such a treat on toast for breakfast when I’d go and stay with her. I have some of her cookbooks as she passed away this June, and I came across a recipe for lemon honey in her NZ Truth cookbook. (The cookbook seems to be from around 1944, so note the wartime eggless version using marrow too – gag).  Lemon honey and lemon curd are basically the same thing, most people seem to use lemon curd these days, but I’m sticking with what Nana called it.

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Alphonso mangoes

In London in late spring boxes of Alphonso mangoes begin to stack up around the shop doors in the Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi precincts. Pretty tissue paper and shredded silver tinsel provide a nest for the fragrant treasures in each box, which are air-freighted from the sub-continent to be consumed within days if not hours of picking.

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The excitement over the arrival of these limited-season “king of fruits” is itself an import from India where quality, price and availability become a national obsession from April to June, especially in Mumbai where the Alphonso is the only variety many locals will bother with as a cut fruit.

The golden flesh is soft, creamy and sweet (unlike many of the more fibrous kinds we’re used to).

So it was a surprise to Indian growers and British fans when the EU put a sudden ban on imports of the fruit from May 1 this year, citing pests in some shipments – no threat to human health but potentially a threat to British glasshouse crops.

The debate has reached the highest levels of Anglo-Indian politics with British prime minister David Cameron receiving a box from British Asian Labour MP Keith Vaz days before the ban, and promising the issue was on the agenda for when he met the new Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (see this BBC article here).

The hope is the ban can be lifted in coming months with the EU sending an audit team in September to examine improved pest containment measures (see this Times of India article here). Devotees like Yotam Ottolenghi, who has produced incredible recipes with Alphonso mango like these ones in the Guardian and his incredible mango coconut rice from Plenty, republished here on epicurious, will be looking out for a win-win.

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Ottolenghi’s mango and coconut rice

Mangoes have been grown in India for centuries, cited in Hindi and Buddhist scripts and by European travellers. The Alphonso mango is the result of grafting techniques introduced to India by the Portuguese. There are other similar sweet cultivars in India but its the Alphonso that has captured the collective food psyche in India and abroad.

Here in Auckland, New Zealand, the joy in Alphonso mangoes is alive among the Indian diaspora in Auckland’s Sandringham, a hub of Indian food and culture. Shoppers from the breadths of greater Auckland are happily purchasing several boxes at a time at the bustling Spice Supermarket for $50/box as the season draws to a close.

In fact, it was only in recent years that the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade lifted a ban on Indian fruit and vegetables, allowing New Zealanders to share in international Alphonso mango bounty. Get in before the season ends!