Andhra maagaaya pickle: Of critical appreciation and equine loads!

“Do you want to come for a movie?” was probably our favourite sentence and we waited to be asked by random kind uncles and aunts visiting from random small towns all over the country! We needed no second invitation and never thought to ask which movie – never mind if we had already seen it half a dozen times before – the lure of the big screen was just too strong! Also the possibility that the kindness of these aunts, uncles would stretch as far as buying us popcorn. Pre-packaged and smelling strongly of kerosene-y plastic as it did, it was still one of the highlights of our lives if we got an entire small packet of it to ourselves!

“Naaki, naake icchesthaava?” used to ask my little cousin from Bangalore, whose Telugu was strongly tinged with Kannada and provided us with endless amusement! He was referring to my mom’s habit of never slicing a fruit if she could help it and rather doling them out individually – with the result that you got the luxury of a whole mango to yourself at every meal during the summer! You could then spend an hour after lunch gently nibbling away at the skin till you got to the fleshy desirable part and bite off chunks as the juice ran down your chin and you tried to see if you catch it at the bottom of your chin with your tongue! Mostly you couldn’t. And all our clothes were stained an interesting yellow throughout the summer! We were not an elegant bunch!

My cousin’s question was to make sure, “Is that whole mango really for me?!!” but the vagaries of Indian languages meant that what he actually asked was whether we’d lick the mango and give it to him! Obviously we would!

And so, where movie-going was concerned, all that was needed was for someone to offer to take us. Even if we had seen the movie earlier – anything which was on a screen, which moved, which came with a bag of popcorn – was grist to the mill of our delectation and thus I ended up seeing a Telugu potboiler called Dasara bullodu (not kidding!) some nine times, accompanying various cousins, uncles and aunts!

Obviously the words “critical appreciation” meant nothing – otherwise this scene from a Kannada movie starring one of Karnataka’s iconic stars – let’s call him Mr R (I may have not have had any sense of critical appreciation but I have a healthy respect for my own skin!) should have eclipsed his career completely. Instead, everywhere you go in K, he is spoken of in hushed tones!

This story was related to me by a friend, the creator of this blog format – so if anyone wants to bash anyone, you know where to go!

So, our hero, Mr R, is supposed to jump off a running horse during an action shoot. Being somewhat stricken in years (when did that ever stop anyone from being an on-screen hero??!), our man obviously couldn’t do it. The director applies his mind to the problem and eureka – has a solution! Mr R stands on a wall, the horse gallops past (well, actually ambles past but with many fast-forwards, we can make it look like a gallop!) and our hero creakily gets on (fast forward will take care of that too!). When this entire sequence is played in reverse, it will seem as though the hero is jumping off a galloping horse – Indian jugaad at its best, right?

….except for one minor detail… when our hero gets on to the horse, the animal lets go… of a load that till now needed a laxative! When the scene is played in reverse, guess what’s flying up and not hitting the fan?? Rather, making its undignified way back inside the horse’s nether end?

The film is released and is a resounding success at the box office. Critical appreciation – what’s that?

Thankfully, when it comes to food, we Indians have some of the best developed critical instincts in the world… making our multiple cuisines quite unmatched… and what better showcases Indian culinary prowess than our pickles… like this lesser-known cousin of the Andhra aavakai, also Andhra…


I have often made fun of my mom’s culinary, ahem… prowess… but in this instance, I will say proudly that no one is a better pickle-r than her! This is her recipe and the pics are of her Maagaaya…

  •  Raw mangoes (preferably Rumani variety) – 6 medium sized ones – about 2 kgs. They should be hard when you press them but with a yellowish streak
  • Asafoetida – 1 large piece – about the size of a forefinger nail (gorantha – in Telugu!)
  • Methi seeds/fenugreek – 1 tbsp
  • Table salt – 1/2 kg
  • Mirchi/red chili powder – 1/2 kg
  • Turmeric powder – 1 tbsp
  • Red chilies – 10
  • Mustard seeds – 2 tbsp
  • Sesame oil/gingelly oil – 1 kg

Wash and dry mangoes with a cloth. Peel and cut into thin slivers – about a finger’s thickness and 1″ to 1.5 ” in length, right down to the kernel.

In a large bowl, mix together the pieces, the kernels, turmeric and salt. Lay the trays out in the sun for the whole day. In the evening, bring them inside and separate the pieces from the juices which have run.

Cover both the juice bowl and the bowl with pieces with a muslin cloth.

The next morning, mix both and again dry in the sun the whole day.

This pickle will require two-three days of sun-drying till it forms a solid mass when you mix them up in the evening.

Add chili powder and oil, reserving 2 3 tbsp of oil.

Fry the asafoetida, fenugreek seeds in a little oil. Powder when cool and add to the mango pieces.

Heat the rest of the oil, add mustard seeds and when they splutter, pour over the pickle.

Mix everything really well and bottle. The bottles should have been washed and sun dried and should be really squeaky clean (unlike the editing of R’s film shot!).

This pickle lasts for up to two years without refrigeration. Eat with anything you like – rice, rotis, dosas, on crostinis, as a raita base…

The most critical of audiences will swoon over it before they give it an Oscar!