Aamshotto or dried mango pulp is a delicacy with Bengalis. A lot of varieties of mangoes are grown in the Bengal region and its people are know for their mastery in the art of delicacies like Aamshotto. There are varieties of aamshotto, ranging from thin papers to fleshy, mushy cake, to sweeter to tangier varieties - all available in the local and international markets. The best variety however, is the homemade one. Homemade aamshotto is not only lip smacking but also very special since it is tagged with fond memories. However, there are only a few households left who still do it at home nowadays. Ours is one of those. My mother has revived many age old recipes along with this one.
What you will need
9-10 ripe mangoes (sweet variety)
Heat: direct sunlight or flame
Flat platter, preferably round
Wide mouthed tumbler
½ tsp of oil
Choosing the mangoes
Choosing the mangoes is an art in itself. Look for healthy yellow fruit. The more yellow the mango us, the more appealing the dry mango pulp will look.
My mother handpicks each and every mango, tapping and patting and trying to feel the exact ripeness. It’s only when she is certain the mangoes are just right, that she buys them. Aamshotto needs a special variety of mangoes, ripen to a definite degree. You need to be an expert before you could actually earn the ability to choose the best mangoes. Another thing you should remember, more yellow the mango is, more appealing the dry mango pulp looks.
Peel the mangoes to extract the pulp from them. Cut them into small pieces and make a paste in the grinder. Traditionally, the pulp used to be squeezed out from the peeled mangoes by hand. My mother still does that. The preparation is like a religious practice. She would wash her hands clean before holding the ripe mangoes (they are so ripe that they already start to leak the juice), and then she would squash the whole mangoes slowly. This is a laborious process and in old times the whole day used to pass extracting the pulps. My mother still follows the old process except that she does it in instalments instead of just doing is all together, in bulk. The mango season stays for about 3 months but the variety that suits best for this recipe is short lived. So, we only get a month or so to do the aamshottos.
Straining the pulp
Straining is very important and you need to strain the pulp of the fibrous substances thoroughly. Sieve the smooth liquid portion from the solid matters and make a smooth soft yellow pulp. My grandmother used to use white muslin cloth to strain the pulp. It was a long process. But the things done slowly, with care and love, bore the sweetest end result.
Spreading the pulp
Brush the platter with a little amount of oil. Take the flat platter and pour the thick liquid on it slowly. Hold the platter and move it in all directions to spread the pulp evenly on it.
You can spread it really thin or thick depending on your preference. The thinner it is, the crispier it gets.
This is the most important part since the quality of the aamshottos depends on this largely. Traditionally women used to sun dry the extract for several days till the spread hardened to the right degree.
My mother has introduced her own method since sunlight is not available all the time. Even though, we have sunny summers during the mango season we do not get it uninterrupted, courtesy the urban life. So, my mother dries if partly on the burner and partly under natural sunlight. Water is set to boil on high flame in a tumbler with wide top. She then places the tumbler on the burner and once it starts to boil she puts the flame on simmer. The platter is placed on the tumbler. It should sit on top of it just as a lid would while the water is simmering. Gradually the pulp starts to solidify. After 10 minutes or so she removes the platter and stations it outside under direct sunlight. The semi solid pulp dries up naturally retaining the original flavor and the tangy sweetness.
You may need to dry the pulp for several days depending on how much sunlight it manages to get. Once it is done, you can take it off the platter. This is a delicate process to start with. Remove from the sides and gently go inside and after a while it gets really easy. The dry mango sheet comes off easily. It looks beautiful, orange and just ready to be savored.
I prefer the softer version to the harder ones. The softer mango pulp is beautifully tender, smooth and melts inside your mouth. The hard ones are good to preserve and stays for the whole year round if kept in air tight containers. My mom cuts them in slices and keeps them in containers that are sterilized beforehand. The whole procedure should be carried out hygienically to preserve it longer.
Mangoes are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as a good source of potassium and sodium. Mangoes have high content of fiber and lots of sugar and water. Dried mango pulp retains all of this except for the water. It has high sugar content but I do not mind eating it once in a while. It gets easier since the dried mango sheets are made bite size in our house. My mom has smartly rationed the consumption for she thinks anything less is more appealing and more healthy.
My sisters get to taste the aamshottos when they come to visit us, even if it is not the mango season, and they taste equally good. Crispy, mushy, tangy - dried mango cakes are too delectable. You just need to eat them without much ado.