My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
The wearisome speaker of Robert Frost’s ‘After Apple-Picking’, is satiated with the scent of apples. Let me replace apples with MANGOES! (forgetting the ulteriority and metaphoric language of Frost’s poem). Mango picking turned out to be an enjoyable task during my short stay in Cambodia. Mango blossoms start appearing by January and Phnom Penh temperatures soar high by March. We used to get intermittent spell of showers in the afternoons called ‘mango showers’, a welcome respite. It helps the growth of the mangoes, it’s believed.
Our mango tree, dotted with golden yellow mangoes!
By april-May the trees are loaded with fruits and it’s a real feast for the eyes to see the many number of mango trees along the streets and in the courtyards of most of the houses. The boughs of our mango tree bend with fruits by April. Cambodians love raw mangoes and semi ripe ones. They eat them with powdered mixture of sugar-salt and bird’s eye chillies sprinkled on them. They love this sweet and piquant treat!
The crunchy tender mango bunch on our tree
Our mango tree looking fresh after a short spell of mango showers
Reluctantly I too plucked a few mangoes and made some pickle last year. Back in Kerala we make this simple tender mango pickle with crushed, chargrilled dry chillies and shallots with a dash of coconut oil. This doesn’t stay long (and the taste wouldn’t let it too!).
quick and easy crispy tender mango mix
There’s this quick and spicy manga curry, with lot of chili powder, fenugreek powder, sesame oil and so on.
The pickling spree continued. I made pickles that last for more than an year with cut mango pieces dried in early morning sun. That’s my mother’s recipe; we call it ‘ennamanga’ (mangoes in gingelli/sesame oil). Some sounds and tastes can wave magic wand and bring back memories associated with them. It may sound like a paradox if I say ‘ennamanga pickle’ always reminds me of the seven volume novel by Reynolds ‘Joseph Wilmot’ and vice versa. Childhood memory chest is like that; you put together two things that have nothing in common. Our father used to tell Joseph’s eventful life story during dinner time, dinners spiced up with the home made ‘ennamanga’.
Tangy spicy ennamanga that always takes me back to my childhood days
Ripe mango picking is after all not a laborious task, this enlightenment dawned on me during my stay in Cambodia. My left hand and right hand, the highly enthusiastic, efficient Ms-H wouldn’t leave a single mango on the tree! She would climb on the ladder ( tree climbing is an easy task for her). Khmer have this very innovative bamboo stick with which you can pluck the unreachable fruits.
Dear H is bent on plucking the last of the mangoes
The scent of mangoes fills my kitchen!
A time consuming yet joyous chore about mango picking is sending the mangoes to friends, my husband’s office staff and other helpers. Pureed mangoes find their place in the freezer and later mark their presence in mango cheese cakes and smoothies. Kerala style ripe mango curry is another favourite dish of the family. We call it ‘mambazha pulisseri’. It’s made of ripe mango cubes cooked in a delicious gravy of coconut paste ground green chiliies, cummin seeds and thick yogurt. Oh my! Does my ‘mango tales’ look like a page from a food blog?
Ripe mangoes sprinkled with black pepper powder and salt was a favourite of my father.
Unlike Frost I’m not tired of seeing the fruit bent boughs, nor overdosed with the scent of the fruits. Yet waiting for another mango plucking season seems like a distant dream!
8 thoughts on “Some mango tales from mangolicious Cambodia”
Chechi really wonderful writing dotted with sweet memories of bye gone times … And mangoes in mouth watering forms ….. Mangoes are everyman’s favourite … Mangoes the king of fruits and queen of vegatables
Thanks a lot,Swapna for leaving a comment here.This is quite encouraging; thanks
Beautiful narration to go with the amazing pictures you clicked. Rethy, it was a treat reading your write up ….a flash back to childhood days spent with grandparents and cousins …the carefree days where climbing trees was second nature….biting into the fleshy juicy ripe mangoes. And watching granny cutting the raw mangoes with tender care and tongue salivating when the spices blend in so perfectly, producing an aroma like no other. Thank you Rethy, your pictures and writings always seems to unearth the memories from the subconscious,
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Thank you so much for the feed back Rekha. Glad that you liked this…and thanks for giving me a chance to taste a slice of your childhood memories. Aren’t we a lucky lot to have such beautiful memories!
Ah! the memories mangoes bring! right from the fragrance of mango blossoms wafting in by December to the tender ones on your yard..the sour raw ones we as kids loved to have with chilly powder and salt..and the scent of ripe mangoes by school closing time! You are right about childhood memories mixing all kind of unlikely things together..to me it is the scent of ripe mangoes in machu and vadakke ara and the bhagavata saptaha held in the temple in Medam. And lately my father’s fondness for mangoes..as you know here in Chennai (and I suspect most of India) the mango season starts a little later than it does in Kerala. We would be the ones to start buying when the season starts but once they started coming, he’d insist on having them every day until the season’s last disappeared from the market..he was so fond of mangoes! And the variety we have in Kerala! Wonderful post Rethy..thanks for reviving the memories
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Thanks a lot Uma… you have always given me the dhairyam to attempt this 🙂 Miss those carefree days…the simple joys of childhood, the fathomless love of our fathers. Glad that we’re the children of the those times and we still carry a bit of that childhood even now. Thank you
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