A quintessentially Indian dessert, Aamras has its origins firmly embedded in West India. Mainly hailing from the port states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, Aamras is often savoured with hot Puris or Rotis. The dessert essentially consists of a puréed mango pulp that is often mixed with saffron and few other spices to enhance its sweet and sour flavour.
For centuries, the two neighbouring states have fought over the dish’s rights, but to no avail. Many feel that Maharashtra takes a clear upper hand, with the often used Hapus (popularly known as Alphonso) variant of mango being a local produce of the state. The special mango breed is grown extensively in Devgad, situated in the Sindhudurg district of the coastal state and Raigad, also in Maharashtra. While others feel Gujarat is the true birth giver to the delectable dessert, with the Kutch variant of Hapus being used in the recipe.
The dessert is a major player during crucial festivals both in Gujarat and Maharashtra. On occasions like Gudi Padwa, the Maharashtrian New Year, Aamras puris are a favourite combination for prashad (offerings to the gods and goddesses). During the auspicious event of Akshay Tritiya too most Marathi households can be seen stirring up this rich, creamy dessert. But most importantly, the dessert’s true importance is evidenced in the fact that it features as a main offering during Ganpati celebrations. The Marathi festival, celebrating vighnaharta (the remover of obstacles) Ganesha, consists of Aamras along with Modaks, the popular sweetmeat dumplings.
The interesting bit about Aamras also lies in the way it is supposed to be traditionally consumed. The dense, velvety dessert was only supposed to be eaten within the households and never outside. The idea behind this belief came from the notion that only home-grown ripe mangoes could provide the necessary quality to the dish rather than stale fruits bought from markets. Before the pulp was extracted, each mango would be massaged after a water bath of a few hours. This activity ensured optimum osmosis, making the fruit plump and juicy.
Today, Aamras is probably one of the most profitable desserts, being packaged on a large scale even for exports. Few restaurants have also revamped the recipe to make the dessert more watery and produce delicious drinks out of it, serving it up with crushed ice, almost like a desi slushy.