Some journeys you just can’t forget. I was going home on a short holiday, eager and cheerful, when I boarded the flight. It’s a short 2-½ hour journey from Bangalore to Kolkata. The time usually zooms by even before you realize. However, that journey felt like never ending! Almost immediately after taking off, it started. Turbulence! Bad ones, most of us were freaking out and some even screamed. I am always terrified of it. I was scared, sick to the stomach and desperately waiting to get out of that flight. A very fine crewmember came towards me, sat down, held my hand and offered me a glass of water. She probably figured it out looking at my face. She assured me everything is fine and turbulence is absolutely normal. Of course, I know that! I was a little embarrassed too. After a while, she came with this drink; tangy, a little sweet with a hint of spice and gorgeous green in color. It tasted so good and just what I needed to refresh my mood. That’s how I had my first taste of Aam Panna!
Indian summers can get very brutal. One needs numerous glasses of not just ice water but also quintessential coolers to help them carry on in midst of the heat. Aam Panna is one such fresh fruit drink, prepared with raw mangoes, mint, lime and spices. It not only quenches thirst but is also believed to help curing gastronomical disorders and increase resistance.
There are several versions of this drink. One could either roast or grill the mangoes for an intense smoky flavor. Or just boil it. The color however doesn’t stay that striking green like the one I had the first time. Well, that came out of a bottle, so I am guessing food color. When you prepare it at home, it’s more pale yellow in color. As for the flavors, some like to add tamarind, some like to add heat from green chili and some might prefer it mild with just a hint of lime juice and mint leaves.
One key ingredient that goes in most of these summer coolers is black salt. Don’t go by the name because it’s more dark purple in color and when grounded, it turns into this lovely pink color. It’s a type of rock salt that’s being infused with herbs and spices, which makes it quite medicinal. It might not be easily available everywhere, in which case, plain salt or Himalayan salt would work too. Whatever spices or herb you choose, just keep it low profile or else you will not be able to enjoy the flavor of fresh raw mangoes.