Indian culinary culture has a long history of pickling, curing perishable food in a briny solution for upwards to 4,000 years. No food is more pickled than green mango, which is served at just about every meal, with seasonings that reflect the flavor preferences of the different regions of India.
Avakaya, a compound word highlighting ava—mustard—and kaya—raw mango—is an uncooked, spiced mango pickle that originated in the state of Andhra Pradesh, on India’s southeast coast. This traditional condiment delivers savory heat, balanced by tart fruit and nutty sesame oil. It makes use of the greenest, least-ripe mangoes available, for several reasons. Unripe mangoes haven’t become engorged yet by water and sugar—the fruit’s natural juice. Instead, the flesh of the fruit houses starch and acids, so the fruit is dry and sour, and at that point the cells have a tremendous capacity to absorb external flavors.
Look for mangoes that have mostly green skin. If the skin is starting to turn pink, the fruit is starting to ripen, and it may already be sweeter than you’d like. Chop the mangoes, leaving the skin on. Traditional Indian chefs would leave the hull of the pit attached, but that requires a hefty knife that can manage a tough pit safely. If you don’t have a butcher’s knife or don’t feel comfortable using one, cut around the pit and simply use the mango.
The seasoning defines the pickle, and as indicated in the name, there’s plenty of spicy Brown Mustard Seed to give this pickle biting warmth. But we’ve also included a healthy dose of Guntur Sannam Chiles, a vibrant red pepper that also hails from Andhra Pradesh, the Indian state in which this pickle originated. Guntur Sannam Chiles are fruity and bold, with rich cherry-like flavors and hints of smoke and tobacco. This chile is quite hot, approaching the Cayenne Pepper in spiciness, though it can be easily tempered by removing the seeds. We balance this with the woodsy sweetness of Fenugreek Seeds. We toasted all of our spices in a dry pan to wake up the essential oils in these products, so we could create the most flavorful, pungent blend possible. When you toast spices, use a hot pan and stand right by the stove as they toast. Remove them once you can smell their aromas rising off the pan, and it should only take a minute or so if the pan is hot. Spices can go from fragrant to burnt in a matter of seconds, so stay in the moment, and place a bowl nearby so you can remove the spices from the pan immediately and get them off the heat.
Grind your chiles and spices, and stir everything in with the chopped mango pieces. Add the salt, chopped garlic cloves, and sesame oil and stir it all together. Then put the whole mixture into a sealable, non-reactive jar; the container should, ideally, be glass or ceramic, since they won’t react with the acids in the mangoes. Plastics and metals can leach into acidic foods, creating unpleasant tastes and unwanted chemical deposits that can ruin the recipe. Let the pickle sit for at least a few hours, but if you let the flavors mingle and mature for 2 or 3 days before eating it you’ll have an even better product. Avakaya will last for up to three months in your refrigerator. This pickle can go on everything, dressing up plain rice or naan, or as a topping for curries, biryani, or any dish you have that could use a jolt of spicy sourness.
1. Remove most of the seeds from the dried Guntur Sannam Chiles.
2. Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat, then add Guntur Sannam Chiles, Brown Mustard Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds, and Fine Sea Salt. Gently stir while they toast and cook until fragrant.
3. Transfer the toasted spices into a coffee or spice grinder and blend into a powder.
4. In a large bowl, whisk the sesame oil into the spice mixture. Stir in the mango and garlic, then transfer into Mason jars and seal.
5. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 days for maximum flavor.