If there is one thing that people associate with Andhra Pradesh, it is this simply awesome pickle called Avakai or Avakaya. It is omnipresent in most Andhra households and many homes have several variations of it; regular Avakai, Bellam Avakai, Endu Avakai, with Garlic, with Sengalu (whole Bengal gram)….
And every Andhra waits for Kotta Avakai or freshly made Avakai. Kotta Avakai Ruchi or the taste of fresh avakai is what summer is all about. We take Avakaya and mix it with hot steaming rice and ghee. That is it. Heaven on earth! 🙂
Ava-kai literally means raw fruit (kai) with mustard (ava), so the stars of this recipe are the raw mango and the mustard powder.
When we were young, one mid-summer weekend would be reserved for making assorted mango-based pickle. Daddy would set off early in the morning to the wholesale market to get the best of mangoes. He was very particular about selecting the mangoes; only the most raw, dark green, firm and sour mangoes for us. He would then have them wiped clean and cut by a professional mango cutter.
Oh yes, cutting mangoes for Avakai is a fine art.
- First it needs a heavy duty chopper than can cut through the seed. Most Indian markets that sell raw mangoes for pickles will have some people who only chop mangoes for you.
- Second, the mangoes has to be cut such that each piece gets a part of the kernel. If this does not happen, the pieces cannot be pickled because they rot.
When he got home:
- We would discard the seeds.
- Examine each piece carefully to ensure that it is just perfect. Kernel intact, no holes, no sign of ripeness, etc.
- Finally, wipe each piece with a soft, dry cotton cloth without damaging it.
In our home:
- We make the Ava podi or Mustard powder, though you could buy it readymade as well. The idea of making Ava Podi just before mixing the Avakai is that it retains the fresh taste and smell.
- We also use unrefined Sesame or Til oil because that is what gives the richest taste.
How to Make Avakai or Avakaya
- Mammidikaya or Raw Mangoes – 2 Kgs
- Avalu or Mustard Seeds – 200 gms
- Kharam or Red Chilli Powder – 200 gms
- Uppu or Salt – 150 gms
- Unrefined Nuvvula Nuni, Sesame Oil, Til Oil or Gingelly Oil – 1/2 litre
- Sengalu or Whole Bengal Gram – 50 gms (optional)
Peeled Garlic Cloves – 50 gms (optional)
- Menthulu or Fenugreek Seeds – 2 tbsp
- Wash and dry a ceramic or glass jar of 4 kg or 4 litre capacity.
- Let the oil cool completely to room temperature.
- Clean each piece of mango with a clean, dry, soft, cotton cloth.
- Set aside the mango pieces to air dry.
- Grind the mustard seeds to a coarse powder consistency.
- In a large and absolutely dry vessel, mix the mustard powder, chilli powder, salt, fenugreek seeds, and bengal gram/garlic cloves.
- Add the mango pieces to this dry mix and mix well.
- Gradually add the sesame oil to the mango-spice mix.
- With an absolutely dry spatula, mix well till all the mango pieces are covered with the masala and the oil.
- Put the Avakai into the jar and seal the jar completely.
- Store the jar in a dry location for at least 2 weeks.
- Mix the Avakai with a gentle hand and an absolutely dry spatula once in 2 or 3 days.
- Top with some more sesame oil, if required.
- Serve Avakai with hot rice and ghee.
- When making Avakai, the space in which you make it and everything you use should be bone dry.
- We normally wash and dry the ceramic jars a couple of days in advance.
- Please ensure that the mango pieces are chopped such that each piece has a part of the kernel or “dippa” as we call it in Telugu. If you use pieces without the kernel, the Avakai will not preserve well.
- Check each piece of mango to ensure that it has the kernel. You can set aside those pieces without the kernel and make temporary Avakai.
- The way we store this pickle is to close the lid of the jar tightly and then wrap a clean, dry cotton cloth around the mouth of the jar.
- The jar should not be opened very often. Take out some Avakai for regular use into a separate bottle.
- Avoid opening the main jar during monsoon or in humid atmosphere.
- If you use garlic cloves, be sure to ensure it remains whole and does not break. This means that the garlic pod should have the top intact. If not, again the Avakai spoils. 🙁
- Ok, ok, I will now stop with my do’s an dont’s. 🙂
Believe you me, all the care you take will be worth the effort.
While you are waiting for the Avakai to pickle properly, try Mammidikaya Mukkalu, the quick and easy mango pickle.