A tall, cooling glass of Aam ka Panna, a green mango cooler, is exactly what you need for the dog days.
You might imagine most Indians swilling glass after glass of orange, delicious mango lassi during the dog days of a tropical summer, but when I was growing up in Bombay, we were more likely to swill glass after glass of aam ka panna or ambyache panhe, a soothing, cooling drink made with raw mangoes that's just as delicious as a lassi, if not more. Even better, unlike lassi, aam ka panna is naturally vegan.
This is the time of year that green mangoes begin to put in an appearance across India. The raw fruit is just as prized as the ripe one. It is cut into small squares and smothered in oil and chili pepper to make delicious pickles that will last all year. It is sliced and added to savory red curries served on a bed of steaming-hot white rice. It is ground up with yogurt and coconut into a savory, tangy chutney called pachadi. Or it is boiled and blitzed and stirred up into this tasty drink to take the edge off the body-numbing heat.
Aam ka panna is so delicious, it is literally the food of the gods. This is what my parents would cook up each year for Ram Navami, the birthday of the Hindu god Rama, because it's said to be his favorite drink. South Indians -- Desi, who's Tamil, calls it panagam -- insist it is a favorite of Narasimhan, the half-lion, half-human avatar of Vishnu.
You don't really need any hard sell on this drink. And don't let the fact that you don't live in India deter you from making it. Green mangoes are easily available this time of year at Indian stores here in the United States and even online, so finding them could be much easier than you think.
There are many versions of Aam ka Panna, but the recipe I make is the exact, simple one my parents made -- it has just three other ingredients, besides the mangoes. Salt, sugar, and cardamom. I've tried in the past to add different things to it, like black salt, chaat masala, red chili pepper and mint, but this very basic recipe is my favorite because it truly lets the unique flavor of the raw mango shine through. At best, spritz on a dash of lime before drinking, or crush some mint in your glass, like you would for a mojito, before you pour it in. If you want to be naughty, swirl in some vodka.
The great thing about this recipe also is that you can make it once and keep it around for a long, long time, because it's a concentrate. You can even freeze it in ice trays and on a day when your tongue's hanging out from the heat, toss a few cubes into water and let the magic happen.
This recipe is an extremely simple one -- so simple, in fact, that it's quite foolproof. It does help to have a pressure cooker so you can boil your green mangoes to the perfect tenderness. An Instant Pot would work too -- set it to pressure cook for 15 minutes. But if you have neither, you can just boil your mangoes on the stovetop. Cover them with water and let the water come to a boil. Cover with a lid and cook as long as it takes for a knife pierced near the center to go cleanly through.
After your mangoes are cooked, all you need to do is blend them with the sugar and cardamom, and your concentrate is ready.
I hope you'll try this recipe, and if you do, be sure to come back and let me know! Or take a photo and post it on Instagram with the tag @holycowvegan. I would love to see!
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Aam ka Panna, a green mango cooler:
Aam ka Panna, a green mango cooler
- Pressure cook the mangoes with two cups of water for up to five "whistles" or for 15 minutes in the Instant Pot. If you don't have either a pressure cooker or an Instant Pot, place the mangoes in a saucepan, cover with an inch of water, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and let simmer over medium-low heat until a knife pierced near the center goes cleanly through.
- When the mangoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and remove all the pulp to a blender. Discard the seeds and peels.
- Add the sugar to the blender along with the cardamom powder and a dash of salt. A rule of thumb for the perfect sweetness is to use as much sugar as mango pulp, so be sure to measure your pulp. Blend into a very smooth paste. This is the concentrate. You can refrigerate this for 3-4 days or freeze for 2-3 months.
- To serve the panna, measure out 3/4 cup of the concentrate and stir in 2 1/2 cups of ice-cold water. This makes enough for 3-4 servings.
- You can crush some mint into the glass before serving, or add a dash of cayenne or roasted cumin. You can also serve with lime wedges. Or just serve plain. It's delicious.