Manga-Inji translates directly from Tamil into English as Mango-Ginger. Funnily enough even though it resembles ginger and has the smell and flavour of raw mango, it is neither ginger nor mango, but more closely related to turmeric! So perhaps the North Indian name of Amba-Haldi (Mango-Turmeric) is more precise in describing it.
Known under the scientific name of Curcuma Amada, this rhizome belongs to the ginger family but resembles turmeric more than ginger. In fact, in some parts of India, it is referred to as “white turmeric”. It doesn’t have the yellow of turmeric not is it as sharp like ginger. It has a very faint ginger taste and is more remarkable for its mild mango like flavour. It is easy enough to grow at home in the manner of ginger and turmeric and the leaves of this plant also look a lot like turmeric leaves but are not as broad.
In our homes, Manga-Inji is invariably chopped up into pickles and the two commonest ways are to pickle it in salt or with chilli powder and other spices. The version with salt is made more or less as an instant pickle and is made in small batches meant to be finished in a couple of days as the addition of salt tends to make the chopped Mango-Ginger “weep”. To make this version, the rhizome is chopped fine and mixed together with chopped green chillies, salt and a little lime juice. This pickle can be refrigerated for a couple of days longer and is best eaten with rice and yogurt/ curds.
The spicy version with red chilli powder is made much in the way this Instant Mango Pickle is made, but with a lot more oil so the pickle keeps without spoiling. This pickle is one of my personal favourites but I haven’t been able to make it home in a long time because it is unknown in Goa markets. The couple of plants I grew never produced enough to satisfy my cravings for the pickle so I had to depend on the store bought variety which is usually very fiery, contain a lot of salt, and sometimes a lot of garlic and mustard oil both of which I have a very low tolerance for. For me all this adds up to a lack of the Mango-Gingery flavour I like in my pickle.
If you have lived in Kochi, you might know that while you can get a lot of the typically local or Indian vegetables at the shops here, vegetables and herbs that I took for granted in Goa are not very easy to come by. I’m not much of a shopper and I will avoid malls if I can but I’m almost always ready for a trip to the local Lulu Mall here. That’s where I can shop for basil, rosemary, spring onions, coloured bell peppers and all the other fruit and vegetables I can’t find anywhere else in town.
During our last trip there, we were almost done with our grocery, fruit and vegetable shopping when my husband called my attention to some ginger. I told him I didn’t need any as I had enough at home. When he told me to read what the sign said, I almost did some kind of crazy dance when I realised it was Mango-Ginger.
And now I’m having Mango-Ginger pickle, my kind that’s not too spicy or salty every chance I can. Here’s how I make it. I prefer grating Mango-Ginger because I like the crunchy little bits of it in the pickle. You could also finely chop it up into pieces or just grind it into a paste. Oil based South Indian pickles tend to have a lot of oil in them as this and the salt together act as preservatives. You could reduce the amount of oil if you prefer to, but then I would advise that you make smaller batches of pickles, cover the mouth of your pickle jar with a piece of muslin dipped in oil and then refrigerate the pickle.