Dubai: Call it nostalgia, but the joy of a chilled glass of aam panna, a sweet and tangy Indian drink made from unripe mangoes, on a hot summer day is unmatched to any other drink. From the moment the first chilled sip hits your parched throat, you cannot help but finish the glass in one go. Blame it on the heat, the tingling taste, or the anticipation of watching your mum prepare it.
I vividly remember how I used to wait for summers during childhood, just to drink countless glasses of aam panna. Every summer afternoon after school, I would look forward to the drink, which my mum would have kept ready, neatly poured into a glass jar, with lots of ice cubes and two mint leaves as garnish. To chill it – mum would usually cool it in an earthenware pot or keep it in the fridge for 30 minutes, ensuring the temperature is just about right to drink immediately. Precision was the key. As I poured the drink into my glass, I got captivated by the refreshing minty aroma and the chargrilled smell of raw mangoes that still lingered in our home. Every sip was a delight, a relief from the heat, and as I write this, nostalgia seeps in. Aam panna is a roller coaster of emotions.
The drink is made with raw mango pulp. Some people boil the raw mangoes to extract the fleshy part, whereas some like to barbeque or grill them for a smoky flavour. Similarly, there are many recipes too. Dubai-based restaurateur and recipe curator Hricha Saraf of Bol Gappa said: “I think every Indian state has its version of aam panna. Some like it more sweet than tangy, whereas some like a balance of sweet and tangy. Just like different recipes, there are other popular names for this drink. In many places, it is called Aam Jhora.”
I think every Indian state has its version of aam panna. Some like it more sweet than tangy, whereas some like a balance of sweet and tangy. Just like different recipes, there are other popular names for this drink. In many places, it is called Aam Jhora
– Hricha Saraf
Talking of sweet and tangy, 38-year-old Ajman based homemaker Ahana Mukherjee, born, and raised in the western Indian state of Gujarat, India, said: “I like the sweet and tangy taste, and that’s what is popular in Gujarat too.”
I like the sweet and tangy taste, and that’s what is popular in Gujarat too
– Ahana Mukherjee
An ancient drink with health benefits
Aam panna’s history can be traced back to a century ago. According to an article published by cntraveller.com, aam panna was first made as a drink for oral rehydration. Speaking to Dubai-based nutritionist, Soumya Mishra, we learned the many health benefits of this drink: “Aam panna is excellent for rehydration as the salt, sugar, and cumin balance the electrolytes. It also prevents the loss of Iron and increases the level of folate (rich in Vitamin B6). Even today, like earlier, aam panna makes for an excellent digestive aid, especially to cure ailments like gastroenteritis, constipation, and diarrhoea.”
Aam panna is excellent for rehydration as the salt, sugar, and cumin balance the electrolytes. It also prevents the loss of Iron and increases the level of folate (rich in Vitamin B6)
– Soumya Mishra
Of Indian summer memories and aam panna
India’s love for aam panna is real. As the summer season of May arrived, mangoes stocked up in the vegetable and fruit market. Picking up mangoes in numbers was not a choice, and it was always hand-picked in kilograms and boxed. In the early days of the joint family social structure in India, near and dear ones would collect mangoes from the backyard mango trees. Ripe or unripe, they were cleaned and used. Some made pickles, some made aam panna, added it to gravies, made dals (check the tok-dal recipe from West Bengal) or just waited for them to ripen. Mangoes were exchanged as pleasantries and shared a communal feeling. As the Indian family structure disintegrated to become nuclear, many mango rituals faded, and many were revived in the form of aam panna recipe.
Speaking of which, 40-year-old Navzar Nagwaswalla, a training and development professional with a UAE telecom, said: “Aam panna, somehow represents the culture of India. Its vivid sweet, sour, and tangy taste is quite a burst of flavours. This drink holds a special place in my heart. As a kid, it was my go-to drink that I sipped on while playing cricket near Horniman circle (Mumbai, India) on Sundays, as a kid, in the early 1990s.” The same joy is shared by his wife, Bijal Nagwaswalla, too. She said: “Aam panna was a childhood favourite drink. I remember my mother preparing this drink – she would add in the pulp to make a paste, add roasted jeera (cumin) powder and rock salt, and store them in Rasna (a fruit flavoured drink) glass bottles. She would then give me a glass of it after a crazy day in the heat.”
As a kid, it was my go-to drink that I sipped on while playing cricket near Horniman circle (Mumbai, India) on Sundays, in the early 1990s.
– Navzar Nagwaswalla
Similarly, for Mukherjee, Aam panna was the only refreshing drink she remembers drinking before carbonated drinks made their way into India. “After getting home from school, to drink a glass of aam panna was the one thing I would look forward to. Any other drink cannot replace its taste for me.”
Ayaz Qureshi, head chef at Ashiana Indian restaurant, Dubai, shares the same love for this drink. He said: “Almost every Indian family has fond memories of serving aam ka panna before lunch, or a drink served when one came home from the outdoors. We did not need any carbonated or energy drink. The homemade mango drink took care of our health needs and was delicious too.”
Almost every Indian family has fond memories of serving aam ka panna before lunch, or a drink served when one came home from the outdoors. We did not need any carbonated or energy drink
– Ayaz Qureshi
A drink so fondly etched in the hearts of the Indian expatriate community in the UAE, it is yet to gain global popularity. Qureshi added: “You will find this drink in a few South-East Asian restaurants during the ongoing summer season, but to be honest, this drink deserves more attention.”
If you are wondering what the taste of the drink might be like or want to recreate your childhood memory in the UAE, here are two recipes to try at home.
Here are two recipes:
Recipe 1: Aam panna recipe
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Makes 2 glasses
2 to 3 raw mangoes
Sugar, as per preference
Rock Salt, as per preference
1 tsp chaat masala
½ tsp jal jeera powder, only if you like the taste (store bought)
1 tsp roasted cumin or jeera powder
Boil the mangoes in water for about 20 minutes.
Then, drain the excess water and allow the mangoes to cool down. Allowing them to cool will ensure the pulp comes out nice and clean. Once you have collected the pulp, blend it to make a thick pulp.
Once done, add all the spices and keep it in the refrigerator. Add mint leaves to garnish.
Add cold water and ice cubes, depending on the consistency you would like and serve.
Recipe courtesy: Hricha Safar, Owner of Bol Gappa Indian restaurant, Dubai
Recipe 2: A smokey aam panna recipe
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Makes 2 glasses
2 green raw mangoes
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp roasted cumin powder
2 tbsp black salt
1 tbsp salt
2 cups of water
1 cup mint leaves or as per preference
Wash and dry the raw mangoes, then barbecue over a grill.
Remove the charred skin and the seed to collect the pulp in a bowl.
Blend the pulp with sugar, powdered spice, and mint leaves.
Note: The aam panna has a smokey taste from roasting the peel.
Recipe courtesy: Ayaz Qureshi, Head chef at Ashiana Indian restaurant, Dubai